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SAN­TI­AGO Pres­i­dent Michelle Bachelet has asked Chileans to re­ceive Pope Fran­cis in a ‘‘cli­mate of re­spect’’, af­ter three 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 to­mor­row, 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 Thurs­day.

Af­ter the pre­vi­ously sched­uled se­cu­rity meeting, Bachelet said yes­ter­day the An­dean na­tion of 17 mil­lion was pre­pared for the first pa­pal visit since St John Paul II came in 1987. ‘‘I also want to in­vite you all to ex­pe­ri­ence this visit in a cli­mate of re­spect, sol­i­dar­ity and hap­pi­ness,’’ she said.

There were no im­me­di­ate ar­rests over 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’s vis­its to San­ti­ago, Te­muco and the north­ern city of Iquique. Po­lice will also have he­li­copters on hand and will mon­i­tor events with drones.

It was un­clear who might have been be­hind yes­ter­day’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’’. GETTY IMAGES

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,’’ he said.

Fran­cis’s visit to Chile and Peru aims to high­light im­mi­gra­tion, the suf­fer­ing of in­dige­nous peo­ples and pro­tect­ing the Ama­zon rain­for­est. How­ever, sex abuse in the Chilean church and po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity in Peru have be­come cen­tral themes as his ar­rival nears.

The Vat­i­can agreed to the Chile visit know­ing that the lo­cal church has lost much of the moral au­thor­ity it earned dur­ing the Pinochet dic­ta­tor­ship, when bish­ops spoke out against hu­man rights abuses.

To­day, the Catholic Church in Chile has been largely marginalised, crit­i­cised as out of touch with to­day’s sec­u­lar youth and dis­cred­ited by its botched han­dling of a no­to­ri­ous pae­dophile pri­est.

In Peru, Fran­cis had hoped to high­light the need to pro­tect the vast Ama­zon and its na­tive peo­ples. But he now has to con­tend with a pres­i­dent who only nar­rowly es­caped im­peach­ment a few weeks ago, sparked mas­sive protests by is­su­ing a po­lit­i­cally charged par­don and is em­broiled in a con­ti­nen­twide cor­rup­tion scan­dal.

Fran­cis, whose de­fence of refugees and mi­grants is well known, is ex­pected to ad­dress Chile’s grow­ing im­mi­grant com­mu­nity when he trav­els on Fri­day to Iquique, home to nearly two dozen mi­grant slums. Even though its num­bers are com­para- AP tively small, Chile had the fastest an­nual rate of mi­grant growth of any coun­try in Latin Amer­i­can in 2010-15, ac­cord­ing to United Na­tions and church sta­tis­tics. Most of the new­com­ers are Haitians.

The Catholic Church in Chile has yet to re­cover its cred­i­bil­ity fol­low­ing the scan­dal over the Rev Fer­nando Karadima, a charis­matic preacher who had a huge fol­low­ing in San­ti­ago and was re­spon­si­ble for train­ing hun­dreds of priests and five bish­ops. The Vat­i­can in 2011 sen­tenced Karadima to a life­time of ‘‘penance and prayer’’ af­ter con­firm­ing what his vic­tims had been say­ing for years but what Chile’s Catholic lead­er­ship re­fused to be­lieve: that Karadima had sex­u­ally abused them.

Fran­cis re­opened the wounds of the scan­dal when in 2015 he named one of Karadima’s pro­teges as bishop of the south­ern dio­cese of Osorno. Karadima’s vic­tims say Bishop Juan Bar­ros knew about the abuse but did noth­ing, a charge Bar­ros de­nies. Osorno dis­si­dents are plan­ning protests in San­ti­ago to co­in­cide with Fran­cis’s ar­rival. AP

Chilean Deputy Interior Sec­re­tary Aleuy Mah­mud and his staff leave the Santa Is­abel de Hun­gria Catholic Church in San­ti­ago yes­ter­day af­ter in­spect­ing the dam­age from a fire­bomb at­tack. Van­dals fire­bombed three churches in the Chilean cap­i­tal ahead of a visit by Pope Fran­cis.

Sex abuse in the Catholic Church has be­come a cen­tral theme as Pope Fran­cis’s ar­rival nears.

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