By Hannah Brockhaus
The head of communications for Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Chile said the country is in a period of social unrest, but the country has hope his trip will help them to rebuild on a foundation of love and tenderness.
“We are really expecting that he will start a ‘revolution of tenderness,’ those are the words of the Pope,” Fr. Felipe Herrera told EWTN News July 12.
“We have no social cohesion…people are angry against the government, congress, against the Church, against big enterprises, small enterprises, even with their neighbors. We need to rebuild our society on love, trust, fraternity and freedom. So we hope to hear that from the Pope.”
Fr. Felipe Herrera, a priest of the Archdiocese of Santiago, said all Chilean people, not only the Catholics, are excited about the visit.
What will be the Pope’s main message of the trip? The only one who can know that for sure “is the Pope” himself, Fr. Herrera said, but they expect him to bring “the word of Christ, the word of the Lord, particularly calling all Christians to be involved in the life of society.”
“Sometimes as a Church, we live inside of the ‘temple,’ and we need to go out and to witness his love everywhere. And in this case I think we need to rebuild our country in fraternity and trusting each other.”
A detailed schedule of the Pope’s trip has not yet been released, but the Vatican announced in June that Francis will visit Santiago, Temuco, and Iquique Jan. 15-18, 2018. From there, the Roman Pontiff will travel to Peru Jan. 18-21.
His first stop will be the capital city of Santiago, from there traveling south to Temuco, in one of the regions affected by devastating wildfires that raged for weeks in January 2017.
Considered the worst in the Chile’s history for the damage caused, at least 11 people lost their lives in the flames, and countless homes, livestock, and pastures were destroyed. The Pope’s visit will fall just one year after the fires.
Temuco is in a very beautiful area of the country though, Fr. Herrera said. It is also the home of the indigenous Mapuche people, who have been at the center of a decades-long conflict surrounding the rightful ownership of the territory.
Since the start of the disputes in the 1990s, Mapuche have been responsible for fires, shootings, and kidnappings in the country, as negotiations to return their rightful land, taken from them by former dictator Augusto Pinochet, have stalled.
In 2016, 227 acts of violence were reported in the Araucania and Biobio regions, including 61 building fires. Of these, 16 were churches or other religious structures.
There has been conflict, Fr. Herrera said, because of the land they have not received, but deserve. “I think the Pope will bring a ceasefire message to that area.”
In the north of the country is the town of Iquique, a city which receives most of the immigrants coming into Chile, so it’s likely the Pope will have a message for immigrants in that city, he said.
Iquique is also the capital of religious festivities in Chile.
Nearly 50 miles to the east, in the same diocese, is the town of La Tirana, home of a shrine to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. There, every year starting on July 12 and ending on the feast day of July 16, Chile holds a week-long festival celebrating Our Lady, including fireworks and traditional dances.
Considering his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Francis is likely to make a stop at one of the country’s many shrines to Our Lady, including, possibly, the shrine to the Immaculate Conception, on top of Santiago’s San Cristóbal Hill.
One of the principal shrines in Chile, it is known for its large statue of the Immaculate Conception, which is 46 feet tall and stands on a 27 foot tall pedestal.
St. John Paul II visited the shrine during his visit to Chile in 1987. His trip 30 years ago is still remembered and spoken of by the Chilean people today, Fr. Herrera said. He hopes this new visit by a Pope will have the same effect.
“We hope that this new visit from the Pope will bring us a real ‘revolution of tenderness’ among all Chileans and will be a huge topic for the next 30 years,” he said.
“We need a revolution of tenderness, loving each other, and fraternity among all Chileans.”