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Chile reception: Why Pope's trip is a challenge

From BBC - January 15, 2018

When the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that Pope Francis's trip to Chile would not be an easy one, it was no exaggeration.

In the pontiff's 22nd overseas visit, he will meet an unprecedented degree of hostility on his native continent.

When asked to evaluate Pope Francis on a scale of 0 to 10, Chileans gave him a score of 5.3, the lowest ranking for any Pope.

Trust in the Catholic Church as an institution fared even worse, polling at just 36% - the lowest in Latin America.

With such a low rating, it is not surprising that before boarding his plane from Rome, Pope Francis asked his congregation to pray for him.

Chile is a land of contrasts. It is estimated that more than 60% of the population identifies itself as Christian, and 45% belongs to the Catholic Church. But it is also the second most secular country in Latin America.

Some 38% of Chileans regard themselves as agnostic, atheist or non-religious.

So what are the three main challenges the Pope will face on his Chilean trip?

1: Corruption and poverty

In the days before Pope Francis was due to land in Chile, the visit came under criticism for the costs involved while so many people were struggling under the poverty threshold.

Catholic churches in the capital, Santiago, were firebombed, causing minor physical damage but sending a clear message.

Three churches caught fire after they were targeted with homemade devices. A fourth church was spared any damage after an explosive was defused, but a message left on a wall nearby read: "The poor are dying."

Flyers were also left at the properties, warning that the next target would be the Pope.

The Apostolic Nunciature was also occupied briefly with protesters complaining about the expense of the pontiff's trip.

2: Resentment after sex scandal cover-up

3: Indigenous discontent

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