By Catherine MARCIANO / Agence France-Presse

Pope Francis is predicted to defend persecuted indigenous people throughout a trip to Chile and Peru subsequent week that additionally goals to increase a flagging native Catholic church hit by baby [email protected] scandals.

The Argentine’s 22nd trip overseas and sixth to Latin America will see him deal with the whole lot from local weather change threats to the mining trade, however the uneasy political scenario in each nations would require an extra-soft method.

Chile is in transition after the presidential victory of billionaire Sebastian Pinera, who tapped right into a deeply conservative tranche of society upset at his centre-left predecessor’s assist for homosexual marriage and abortion.

Francis will sit down with outgoing President Michelle Bachelet, earlier than additionally — extra informally — assembly Pinera, who takes over in March.

He may also have a non-public assembly with two victims of the regime of the late dictator Augusto Pinochet.

For its half, Peru has been shaken by protests after the extremely controversial launch this month of former president Alberto Fujimori after serving lower than half of a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses.

The determination to pardon him was made by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who’s accused of mendacity to cowl up ties to a Brazilian firm that has admitted to wide-scale corruption.

Peru has additionally been within the headlines following the Vatican’s determination this week to take management of a Catholic motion whose founder is accused of the [email protected] and psychological abuse of minors.

Francis has been slammed by sufferer assist teams for permitting Luis Fernando Figari to retire quietly in Rome.

There is not any official assembly with victims scheduled, although the pope could meet some away from the media gaze.

– Soft spot for the Amazon –
The spotlight of his January 15 to 21 trip shall be lunch conferences with representatives of indigenous peoples.

In Temuco, Francis will chat with Mapuche natives — some seven p.c of the Chilean inhabitants — who inhabited an unlimited territory earlier than the arrival of Spanish colonists in 1541, and have lengthy protested the lack of ancestral lands.

Not all shall be happy to see him: a radicalised group of activists within the Auracania area has taken to torching farms and lumber vehicles in addition to setting fireplace to church buildings.

In Puerto Maldonado, a small buying and selling centre of the Amazon rainforest in southeastern Peru, Francis shall be welcomed by some three,500 indigenous people from areas stretching into Bolivia and Brazil.

The environmentally-conscious pope has a delicate spot for the Amazon and can maintain a particular meeting of bishops from the area subsequent yr in a bid to assist indigenous people and switch the highlight on one of many world’s inexperienced “lungs”.

– Wake-up name –
It won’t all be crowd-pleasing plenty: the native church buildings “need a shock” to shake them out of a complacent perspective to the [email protected] abuse scandals which have hounded the Catholic church for many years, a detailed aide to the pope informed AFP.

Francis may also take the chance of closed-door conferences with native clerics to name on them to do extra to assist foster his imaginative and prescient for an open, merciful and socially-engaged church.

“Under Pinochet’s dictatorship, the church was seen as a reference point for the protection of human rights,” mentioned Chile’s ambassador to the Holy See, Mariano Fernandez Amunategui.

“Today the names of bishops are less known, secularisation has reduced their role,” he mentioned.

While the variety of Catholics in Peru hovers between 85 and 90 p.c of the inhabitants, in Chile it dropped from 70 p.c to 67 p.c between 2006 and 2014, whereas the variety of atheists rose to 22 p.c.

The trip guarantees to be bodily demanding, with 81-year previous Francis hopping on 10 flights to journey over 30,000 kilometres by scorching and humid climates.

It may also take the pontiff down reminiscence lane.

The Argentine studied in Chile throughout his youth and has invited a Chilean Jesuit good friend to accompany him on this go to. (AFP)