3 Churches Firebombed Ahead of Pope Francis' Visit to Chile

Pope Francis waves at the end of the Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican November 22, 2017.
Pope Francis waves at the end of the Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican November 22, 2017. | (Photo: Reuters/Max Rossi)

Days before the scheduled visit of Pope Francis to Chile, three Roman Catholic churches in the national capital of Santiago were firebombed and a note left at the scene threatening to put "the next bomb" in the pontiff's "cassock."

After the firebomb attacks on the three churches Friday, police found barrels of flammable liquid at two other churches that had not been ignited, according to The Associated Press.

No injuries were reported, except minor physical damage, according to Interior Ministry official Mahmud Aleuy.

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Pamphlets threatening, "The next bombs will be in your cassock," were found outside one of the three churches that was attacked.

The pamphlets mentioned the Mapuche indigenous people, who are asking the government to return their ancestral lands and give them some rights. They also referred to "dominion over our bodies," and included the phrase "free, impure and savage bodies," alluding to the church's positions on sexuality and abortion, according to The New York Times. "We attack with the fire of combat, exploding your disgusting morals," the pamphlets said, and also called for the liberation of "all political prisoners in the world."

In 2011, the Vatican found the Rev. Fernando Karadima from El Bosque parish in Santiago guilty of sexual abuse and sentenced him to a life of penitence and prayer, but the victims were not compensated, according to the Times.

Research published recently by showed that around 80 members of the clergy in Chile have been accused of sexual abuse since 2000, and that more than half have been convicted in court or by the Vatican.

Francis will arrive Monday in Santiago and later celebrate Mass and meet with Mapuche people in the southern city of Temuco Wednesday.

Authorities have increased security measures in the city, with more than 4,000 additional police officers and special forces troops, even though Francis is expected to stay only for a few hours. Police had earlier said 18,000 officers will be deployed during the pope's visits to Santiago, Temuco and the northern city of Iquique, and have helicopters on hand and monitor events with drones.

Hours after the attacks, President Michelle Bachelet said, "I also want to invite you all to experience this visit in a climate of respect, solidarity and happiness."

"We are deeply hurt by these events that contradict the spirit of peace that inspires the pope's visit," Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago was quoted as saying.

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