VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis will visit Chile and Peru in 2018, the Vatican announced Monday.
The Holy See said Francis will visit Chile from Jan. 15-18, then head to Peru, where he'll stay until Jan. 21. The cities on the Argentine-born pontiff's itinerary include Santiago, Temuco and Iquique in Chile and Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo in Peru, with details of his schedule to be announced later.
Puerto Maldonado is the capital city of Peru's Madre de Dios region, an epicenter of illegal gold mining, a lucrative business which feeds criminal activity such as sex trafficking, including of minors. Francis in his papacy has repeatedly denounced trafficking and the exploitation of children.
Trujillo is the capital city of Peru's La Libertad region, which in the first months of 2017 was hit by floods and mudslides that killed 106 people and left countless more homeless.
The Holy See said Francis had accepted invitations from the heads of state and local bishops.
Francis is scheduled to visit another South American country, Colombia, this year in September but a hoped-for trip to South Sudan this year has been called off. And planning is behind schedule for a trip to India, raising doubts it will take place in 2017, said Vatican spokesman Greg Burke.
In his voyage in January — summer time in Chile and Peru — Francis will be seeing flocks of faithful where the Vatican's handling of sex abuse cases has fueled bitter criticism.
In Peru, victims of a charismatic Catholic lay leader-turned-sexual predator have complained of years of delays in handling the case revolving around the Peru-based organization Sodalitium Christianae Vitae. The organization was one of several conservative groups formed as a reaction to the left-leaning liberation theology influencing Latin American Catholic church circles a few decades ago. Victims first complained to the Lima diocese in 2011 about Luis Fernando Figari, who founded the lay movement.
In Chile, local authorities for years refused to believe those who had been abused by a charismatic priest, the Rev. Fernando Karadima. He was eventually punished by the Vatican in 2011, when he was ordered to live a life a penance and prayer for his crimes. Francis has faced criticism there for appointing a bishop accused by Karadima's victims of having known about his abuse and done nothing.
Franklin Briceno contributed from Peru.
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