3 Chile churches fire­bombed ahead of Pope Fran­cis’ visit

The Hitavada - - WORLD -

PRES­I­DENT Michelle Bachelet asked Chileans on Satur­day to re­ceive Pope Fran­cis in a “cli­mate of re­spect,” hours af­ter three Ro­man Catholic churches were fire­bombed and a note left at the scene threat­en­ing the pon­tiff.

In the overnight at­tacks in San­ti­ago, the cap­i­tal and largest city where the Pope will ar­rive on Mon­day, the churches were hit with fire­bombs and then sprayed with ac­cel­er­ant. At one, the doors were burned be­fore fire­fight­ers ex­tin­guished the blaze.

“The next bombs will be in your cas­sock,” read pam­phlets found out­side one of the churches. Later in the day, po­lice found bar­rels of flammable liq­uid at two other churches that had not been ig­nited. They were han­dled by bomb squads without in­ci­dent.

The pam­phlets also ex­tolled the cause of the Ma­puche in­dige­nous peo­ple, who are push­ing for a re­turn of an­ces­tral lands and other rights. Fran­cis will cel­e­brate Mass and meet with Ma­puches in the south­ern city of Te­muco on Wed­nes­day.

Af­ter the pre­vi­ously sched­uled se­cu­rity meet­ing, Bachelet said the An­dean na­tion of 17 mil­lion was pre­pared for the first pa­pal visit since Saint John Paull II came in 1987.

“I also want to in­vite you all to ex­pe­ri­ence this visit in a cli­mate of re­spect, sol­i­dar­ity and hap­pi­ness,” Bachelet said. There were no im­me­di­ate ar­rests in the fire­bomb­ings, and author­i­ties down­played their sig­nif­i­cance with In­te­rior Min­istry of­fi­cial Mah­mud Aleuy call­ing the dam­age “mi­nor.”

Chilean po­lice did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to queries about whether new se­cu­rity mea­sures would be taken af­ter the at­tacks.

Ear­lier this week po­lice said 18,000 of­fi­cers would be de­ployed dur­ing Fran­cis’ vis­its to San­ti­ago, Te­muco and the north­ern city of Iquique. Po­lice will also have he­li­copters on hand and mon­i­tor events with drones.

It was un­clear who might have been be­hind Fri­day’s at­tacks. A small mi­nor­ity of Ma­puches have used vi­o­lence to fur­ther their cause, and in re­cent years churches have been tar­geted.

Chile also has a hand­ful of anar­chist groups that pe­ri­od­i­cally at­tack prop­erty and clash with po­lice dur­ing protests. The pam­phlet that threat­ened the Pope men­tioned the Ma­puche cause and called for the lib­er­a­tion of “all po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers in the world.” Hugo Al­ca­man, pres­i­dent of ENAMA, a Ma­puche group that en­cour­ages lo­cal busi­nesses and ad­vo­cates so­cial change, con­demned the at­tacks. “We re­ject all types of vi­o­lence, which we don’t think is in­tel­li­gent or ef­fec­tive,” said Al­ca­man.

Fran­cis’ visit to Chile and Peru aims to high­light im­mi­gra­tion, the suf­fer­ing of in­dige­nous peo­ples and pro­tect­ing the Ama­zon rain­for­est.

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