TRUJILLO, Peru (AP) — The Latest on Pope Francis’ visit to Peru (all times local):
Authorities in Chile are probing a new church burning that comes after a series of fires at religious buildings following Pope Francis’ visit to the nation.
The Church of the Virgin of Candelaria is located about 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of the capital, Santiago. Officials say it burned to the ground in an overnight blaze.
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Commander Rodolfo Zuniga of the regional firefighting corps told Bio Bio radio Saturday that investigators are examining the possibility someone instigated the blaze. He did not give details on who may have been responsible.
Several churches were damaged by firebombs during the pontiff’s visit to Chile earlier this week. Francis left the country Thursday and is currently in neighboring Peru.
Pope Francis may not have returned to his native Argentina since becoming pontiff, but he is traveling through a Peruvian town with the same name as his birthplace.
People lined the streets Saturday in Buenos Aires, Peru, to greet Francis as he rode through on the pope mobile. Some waved Argentine flags.
Like the sprawling, densely populated capital of Argentina, Peru’s Buenos Aires is situated on the water. The comparisons might end there, however.
The town of about 20,000 people consists mostly of simple one-story homes, many of which were damaged in El Nino storms last year when heavy rains caused by a warming of Pacific Ocean waters left more than 150 dead across the country.
The first pope from Latin America has traveled throughout the region since becoming pontiff five years ago but not Argentina.
Pope Francis’ top adviser on clerical sex abuse has implicitly criticized the pope over his accusations of slander against Chilean abuse victims, saying his words were “a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse.”
Cardinal Sean O’Malley said in a statement Saturday that he couldn’t explain why Francis “chose the particular words he used.”
He insisted that Francis “fully recognizes the egregious failures of the church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones.”
Francis set off a national uproar upon leaving Chile on Thursday by accusing victims of the country’s most notorious pedophile priest of having slandered another bishop by saying he knew of the abuse but did nothing.
Pope Francis is consoling Peruvians who lost their homes and livelihoods in devastating floods, telling them they can overcome all of life’s “storms” by coming together as a community.
Francis travelled Saturday to an area of northern Peru that is frequently affected by El Nino storms and was hit last year by flooding that killed more than 150 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes. Some residents are still living in tents.
Francis said he wanted to come to Trujillo to pray with those who lost everything and must contend with “other storms that can hit these coasts, with devastating effects on the lives of the children of these lands.”
He also mentioned organized violence and contract killings, a problem which is particularly acute in northern Peru.
He said Peruvians have shown that life’s greatest problems can be confronted when the community comes together “to help one another like true brothers and sisters.”
Pope Francis has arrived in northern Peru to console residents still reeling from devastating floods nearly a year ago that toppled hundreds of thousands of homes, left streets covered in thick layers of mud and even ripped apart tombs from an above-ground cemetery.
Francis is celebrating a seaside Mass near Trujillo, a popular tourist resort town. He will then ride through a hard-hit neighborhood bearing the name of his native Buenos Aires, where thousands are still living in tents after El Nino rains killed more than 150 and sent thousands onto rooftops seeking rescue.
On his penultimate day in Peru, Francis also meets with local priests and then celebrates a Marian prayer in the central square. Marian popular piety is enormously important to Peruvian Catholics and the first Latin American pope.