Concerns of Indigenous communities will take center stage during Pope Francis’ visit to Chile and Peru in January, according to the Vatican.
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Poverty, migration and environmental violations are a few of the topics to be discussed during Pope Francis’ Jan. 15-22 tour beginning in Santiago, Temuco and Iquique.
The religious figure plans to meet with Mapuche people to better understand the trials of the Indigenous nation, composed of over 1.7 million people.
The Vatican reported that the Pope will spend time with the Mapuche in Araucania, an area ripe with state violence against Indigenous people. Police aggression has been a point concern in recent months, with officers leading raids in villages and using crowd control methods on women and children.
Also on the agenda is a visit to Santiago’s women’s prison and a meeting with youth in the Sanctuary of Maipu.
On one of the final days of his trip, the Catholic leader will pay homage at the shrine for Alberto Hurtado, a Jesuit priest who dedicated his life to assisting the poor and homeless. Hurtado was canonized in 2005, 53 years after his death.
During his first day in Peru, the Pope will meet with Indigenous leaders in the Amazon and attend a lunch with community leaders in Lima.
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The Pope’s visit "reflects his concern for a region that has experienced significant tensions, where he wants to share a message of peace and try to bring words of hope that can bring about encounters among peoples," said Monsignor Fernando Ramos, the auxiliary bishop of Santiago and organizer of the papal visit.
The Mapuche people, who represent Chile’s largest Indigenous group, continue to fight against the government as it tries to regain land stolen during the country’s 19th Century expansion southward into their territory.
Since the late 19th Century, the Mapuche have battled for land rights as they were pushed out of their ancestral lands and forced to live in rural outskirts, where foreign timber companies are now taking over.