Pope Visits ‘the Ends of the Earth’ at Magellan Strait
Pope John Paul II journeyed to this remote Strait of Magellan town that he called “the ends of the earth” Saturday and preached against violence just a day after experiencing the worst outbreak of disorder in his 33 foreign trips.
The most solemn Mass of the pontiff’s current two-week South American pilgrimage erupted in riotous clashes between anti-government leftist demonstrators and police Friday that left more than 200 people with injuries and hundreds, including members of the papal party, washing tear gas from their eyes and skin.
But on Saturday the Pope seemed untouched and untroubled by the violent demonstration that broke up only after cavalry charges by mounted police, pellets from police shotguns, high-pressure blasts from water cannon and clouds of tear gas less than 100 yards from the papal altar.
In sunny but wind-swept Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in the Western Hemisphere, John Paul recaptured the theme that he had been expounding the day before when the rioting at the Mass broke out.
“Oh, Chile,” he called out to a crowd of more than 10,000 in this sparsely populated port on the Magellan Strait, “do not hesitate for a moment in resisting . . . the anti-Christian temptation of the violent ones who lose hope in dialogue and reconciliation and who substitute political solutions with the power of arms for ideological oppression.”
Speech on Target
The Punta Arenas speech, drafted weeks before the 14-day papal journey to Uruguay, Chile and Argentina began last Tuesday, was coincidentally and ironically on target in the circumstances.
Referring to the bleak sheep- and cattle-raising area north of the Antarctic Circle in the biblical phrase “Unto the ends of the Earth,” John Paul admonished his listeners to avoid “the seduction of ideologies that pretend to substitute the Christian vision with the idols of power and violence, of riches and pleasure.”
His listeners, most of them stolid ranchers, farmers and workmen, were solemn and restrained in contrast to Friday’s rioters, who spread panic among nearly half a million worshipers at the Mass in Santiago.
While the pontiff kept a judicious silence on his personal reaction to the sacrilegious intrusion on the Friday Mass, a Vatican spokesman said that John Paul believes the violent misbehavior of leftist demonstrators “ratified” his own lifelong abhorrence of such actions.
“He was actually preaching against these things as they were happening, it was not something theoretical,” said the spokesman, Joaquin Navarro Valls. “He did not say as much afterwards, but it was as if he was thinking, ‘You see, I am right.’ ”
Speaks to Small Crowd
Navarro said that after the calamitous Mass, when John Paul returned to the local nunciature in Santiago, the Pope impulsively grabbed a public address microphone and spoke to a small crowd of worshipers from the Mass who had come to see him.
“I congratulate you because you know how to react as Christians against violence,” the pontiff said, praising the majority who had calmly continued to participate in the Mass despite the rioting.
Then, according to Navarro, John Paul repeated three times, slowly and with feeling, “Love is stronger than hate.”
In his 2,500-mile, three-city journey Saturday, the Pope also stopped at the Pacific seaport and fishing town of Puerto Montt, where he boarded a small naval service vessel and symbolically steamed along the four arms of a cross patterned in the center of the harbor by scores of linked fishing and pleasure boats.
The Pope stopped for the night at another Pacific seacoast city, Concepcion, where he planned to celebrate Mass this morning.