TEMUCO, Chile – Pope Francis recalled Wednesday while celebrating Mass at an airport in this southern Chilean city that that facility had been used as a detention and torture center during Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-1990 military dictatorship.
The pontiff referred to those dark times while delivering his homily at the Maquehue Airport in Temuco, located in the Araucania Region, the ancestral home of the Mapuche Indians and Chile’s poorest in terms of gross domestic product per capita.
In his remarks, Francis said that “grave violations of human rights had taken place” at that airport.
Some human rights organizations had asked organizers of the pope’s visit to move the Mass elsewhere due to the negative memories aroused by the airport.
Prior to a Mass Thursday in the northern Chilean city of Iquique, Francis will meet with two victims of Pinochet’s dictatorship and receive a letter from them.
The pontiff devoted the rest of Wednesday’s homily to the indigenous struggle for land rights in Araucania, quoting from a song by 20th-century Chilean folk singer Violeta Parra referring to “centuries of injustice” and condemning in general terms past and present-day violence in that region.
Francis said there were two forms of violence that threaten processes of unity and reconciliation.
The first, he said, involved “drawing up agreements that never materialize, and which is (a form of) violence because it dashes hopes,” and the second is the use of actual violence.