Three churches firebombed, protesters arrested during pope visit to Chile

Three churches firebombed, protesters arrested during pope visit to Chile

Three churches firebombed, protesters arrested during pope visit to Chile

A man is arrested during a protest against Pope Francis in Santiago, Chile, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. The pontiff is visiting Chile Jan. 15-18, where the Vatican's handling of sex abuse cases has fueled bitter criticism. (Credit: Victor R. Caivano/AP.)

Three churches have been firebombed in Chile on the first full day of Pope Francis's visit to the Andean nation.

SANTIAGO, Chile — Three churches have been firebombed in Chile on the first full day of Pope Francis’s visit to the Andean nation.

Authorities say two churches were burned in the early hours of Tuesday in the southern Araucania region. The pope is set to visit with indigenous Mapuches Wednesday in Temuco, the capital of Araucania. The third church attacked was in Puento Alto, just south of Santiago.

Including the latest firebombings, nine churches have been attacked in Chile since Friday.

In recent years, Mapuche groups have burned churches to agitate for the return of ancestral lands and recognition of their language. It’s not clear who has been behind the spate of recent burnings.

Meanwhile, police in Chile’s capital arrested dozens of protesters near a square where Francis celebrated Mass.

An Associated Press photographer at the scene watched police detain scores of people who were marching toward the Plaza O’Higgins.

Police first shot tear gas Tuesday at the group of about 100 people, who were a few blocks from the plaza. Authorities have estimated about 400,000 on hand for the Mass itself.

After spraying the gas, officers moved in and made the arrests.

Protesters carried signs with messages like, “Burn, pope!” and “We don’t care about the pope!”

On Monday, several groups had said they planned on marching and protesting during the Mass.

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