TEMUCO, Chile – Pope Francis called on Wednesday for respect for all Indian cultures and the end of violence after arriving at Maquehue airport in the southern Chilean region of Araucania, the land of the Mapuche Indians.
“A culture of mutual recognition cannot be built upon violence and destruction which take human lives,” the pontiff said in his homily. “Recognition cannot be demanded by killing the other.”
Mapuche claims to ancestral lands, now owned by private farming and forestry companies, have led to demonstrations, hunger strikes and arson attacks in recent years.
Mass began with a prayer by Mapuche representatives, and Francis opened his homily with a greeting in the native Mapudungun language, saying “Mari, Mari. Küme tünngün ta niemün” (Good morning. Peace be with you).
The pope thanked the tens of thousands of people who gathered at the airport for his visit to Araucania, noting “especially, members of the Mapuche community, and all other native peoples living in these southern lands, like Rapanui (Easter Island), the Aymara, the Quechua, the Atacameños and so many others.”
The Argentine-born pope said “there were grave violations of human rights” at Maquehue airport, where people were detained and tortured by the 1973-1990 military regime.
“We offer this celebration for all those who suffered and died, and for all those who each day carry on their shoulders the burden of so much injustice,” the pope said.