Pope Francis begs forgiveness for harm caused by sex abuse in Chile

"I feel bound to express my pain and shame," the pontiff said.

Earlier today, authorities said three churches were firebombed in Chile, two in the southern Araucania region and a third in Puento Alto, just south of the capital, the Associated Press reported. They were among nine churches that have been attacked in the country since Friday, the AP reported.

Thousands of Chileans have reportedly left the church recently, which many believe is a a result of both the country's increasingly secular beliefs and scandals involving sex abuse by the clergy that were finally made public.

In 2010, information came to light that a well-known and powerful priest known as a father figure for the Chilean elite had been sexually abusing minors in his high-class Santiago parish for decades and the church hierarchy allegedly protected him.

In 2015, many of the country's Catholics were angered by the Pope’s decision to appoint a bishop who had been one of Karadima's followers to the southern city of Oserno. Bishop Juan Barros has denied knowledge of Karadima’s behavior as a sexual predator.

Tensions have flared ahead of the Pope’s arrival in Chile; his trip has already been marred by attacks on churches carried out by political groups and campaigners for indigenous rights. Nine churches were attacked in recent days, with three attacked on Monday night, including two in Araucania, an economically disadvantaged region the pope is scheduled to visit on Wednesday.

After his speech this morning, Francis went to O’Higgins Park where he celebrated his first open-air mass in Chile. An estimated 400,000 people attended, according to Chilean authorities; thousands of Argentines came from the pope's native Argentina to see him. A colorful, pious crowd, many dressed in traditional costumes, sang and clapped at the sight of the pope.

Nearby, police fired water cannons and tear gas at protesters, detaining several dozen, according to the AP.

The pope arrived in Santiago on a flight from Rome Monday and was scheduled to stay in Chile for three days before moving on to Peru for another three days.

On Wednesday, he is scheduled to travel south to Temuco to meet the Mapuche native people, listen to their grievances and celebrate mass there. The following day, he will travel north to Iquigue where he plans to celebrate mass again and speak about immigration.

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