Pope sets off on trip to Chile and Peru

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis set off on a trip to Chile and Peru on Monday, January 15, a 7-day Latin-American visit which will see the pontiff rally a flagging local church on his home continent.

The 81-year old Argentine, who set off from Rome's Fiumicino airport shortly before 9am (0800 GMT), will hop on 10 flights to travel over 30,000 kilometers through hot and humid climates for his 22nd trip abroad.

On the eve of his departure, at least two people were killed and 65 wounded in a 7.3 magnitude earthquake that hit southern Peru, a country at the mercy of high seismic activity.

The Vatican's number two, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, admitted last week that this "will not be a simple trip" for Francis.

On his visit to Chile, the pope faces protests from victim support groups over sex abuse scandals dogging the church.

He also risks a frosty reception among indigenous populations who have long protested the theft of ancestral lands by Spanish colonists and have recently taken to torching not only farms in protest but also churches.

The pontiff will have to tread carefully politically in Peru, which has been shaken by protests after the highly controversial early release this month of former president Alberto Fujimori who had been jailed for human rights abuses. – Rappler.com