POPE FRANCIS greets Mapuches in an offertory of a Mass at the Maquehue Air Base, in Temuco, Chile, Wednesday, Jan. 17.

POPE FRANCIS greets Mapuches in an offertory of a Mass at the Maquehue Air Base, in Temuco, Chile, Wednesday, Jan. 17.

SANTIAGO, CHILE

Pope Francis wraps up his Chile visit today by meeting with members of the South American nation’s booming immigrant community, who are flocking to the region’s strongest and most stable economy but are increasingly the focus of political and social discontent.

After an emotional meeting with Chile’s Mapuche indigenous in the south Wednesday, Francis is going to the northern city of Iquique, which is home to nearly two dozen migrant slums. He plans to celebrate Mass there before heading to Peru for the final leg of his two-nation trip.

Francis has long called for countries to welcome migrants and refugees fleeing war, drought or hardship — a message that often falls on deaf ears in Europe, where the migrant crisis has been a driving factor on politics for years.

Upon his arrival in Chile, Francis said the country’s future lies in its ability to listen, including “to the migrants who knock on the doors of this country in search of a better life, but also with the strength and the hope of helping to build a better life for all.”

Even though the numbers are comparatively small, Chile had the fastest annual rate of migrant growth of any country in Latin American between 2010 and 2015, according to U.N. and church statistics.

On Wednesday, Francis engaged in one of his most anticipated events: Celebrating Mass for Mapuche amid a spate of unprecedented violence timed to his visit. Nearly a dozen churches and three helicopters were torched recently.

In his homily in the heart of Chile’s restive Araucania region, Francis took both Mapuche radicals responsible for the violence and the government to task. He said violence must end and the government must do more than just negotiate “elegant” but ultimately meaningless agreements with the indigenous.

“You cannot assert yourselves by destroying others, because this only leads to more violence and division,” he admonished. “Violence begets violence, destruction increases fragmentation and separation. Violence eventually makes a most just cause into a lie.”

The outdoor Mass at the Maquehue Air Base was steeped in symbolism because of its own history: The land was taken from the Mapuche in the early 20th century and the location was also used as a detention and torture facility in the early years of Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship.

Leading some 150,000 people in a moment of silent prayer, Francis said the fertile green fields and snow-capped mountains of the Mapuche heartland were blessed by God and cursed by man as the site of “grave human rights violations” during the 1973- 1990 dictatorship.

“We offer this Mass for all those who suffered and died, and for those who daily bear the burden of those many injustices,” he said.


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