ROME — Early next year, Pope Francis will once again go back to Latin America, this time to visit Chile and Peru. The visit will take place on January 15-21, and take him to six different cities.
This will be the sixth visit to Latin America, and once again, he’s avoiding his home country of Argentina.
The trip was confirmed by the Vatican’s press office on Monday, saying that the pope was going to both countries after accepting invitations from both the local heads of state and the bishops.
Francis will begin the trip in Chile, visiting Santiago, Temuco and Iquique, from January 15 to the 18. From there, he will visit another three cities in three days, this time in Peru: Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo.
A detailed program for the visit hasn’t yet been announced, but if it maintains a schedule in accordance to the pope’s recent foreign trips, it will include a visit to a prison, a children’s hospital ward and an encounter with the youth. Meetings with the local clergy, beyond at least one open-air Mass in each country are also expected.
This will be Francis’s fifth visit to Latin America, after his trips to Brazil, in 2013; Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay in 2014; Cuba in 2015; Mexico in 2016; and an upcoming visit to Colombia, scheduled for September this year.
Bishops from Chile had last spoken about a possible visit for next year in February, when they were in Rome to meet Francis.
Chilean media quoted Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago, Chile, as saying that the visit they paid to the pope in February was a “very fraternal and lucid encounter.”
Commenting on the upcoming trip, the Archbishop of Santiago said that the pope’s words will be “very good for the Church and the country.”
He will be welcomed in Chile by President Michelle Bachelet, who visited him in the Vatican in 2015. In Peru, Francis will be hosted by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.
During a press conference to announce the trip, Kuczynsi said that the visit will be a “before and after” for the country. “Before, agitation; after, morality. It’s for this reason that the visit is so important.”
Kuczynski is a devout Catholic.
Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, of Lima, told reporters that Francis was visiting Peru as a “pilgrim of peace, justice and unity.”
“I believe that this is I think it is an excellent opportunity for the whole Peruvian family to look for the best, knowing that Pope Francis brings a message of reconciliation,” he said, agreeing with the president in the sense that there will be a before and after the papal visit.
This will the third time a pope visits Peru, after John Paul II did so twice, in 1985 and 1988. In Chile’s case, this will be the second visit after the Polish pope went to four cities in 1987. That trip had a second leg, to Argentina, both to lead the first World Youth Day outside of Rome and in thanksgiving to God for a peaceful solution to the long-term territorial conflict between Argentina and Chile.