Latin America & Caribbean

Pope in Peru: Francis speaks out on violence against women

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Media captionPope Francis had a serious message for his congregation

Pope Francis, who is on a visit to Peru, has spoken out about violence against women in Latin America.

Speaking at a Mass in the northern city of Trujillo, the Pope called the violence "a plague" that needed to be combated across the region.

According to the UN, half of the 25 countries with the largest number of murders of women are in Latin America.

The Argentine Pope, 81, is on the second and final leg of a week-long regional tour.

"There are so many cases of violence that stay silenced behind so many walls," the Pope said on Saturday.

"I'm calling on you to fight against this source of suffering including legislation and a culture that rejects every type of violence."

On Thursday, the pontiff arrived in Peru from Chile, where he became embroiled in a row over clerical sex abuse.

He drew anger by accusing victims of a paedophile priest of slandering a bishop who they say tried to cover up the priest's crimes.

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Media captionPeruvian indigenous people greeted the Pope on Friday

What happened in Chile?

At the end of his visit there, Francis said there was "no proof" for claims that abuse by Father Fernando Karadima had been covered up by Bishop Juan Barros.

One of Karadima's victims, Juan Andres Murillo, responded by saying the Pope's words were unacceptable.

"The Pope called our statements against Bishop Barros's concealments 'slander'," he told AFP.

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Image caption Bishop of Osorno, Juan Barros, denies allegations he covered up sexual abuse

The Catholic Church suffered a blow in Chile in 2010 when Karadima was publicly accused of molesting several teenage boys in the capital, Santiago, starting in the 1980s.

In 2011 the Vatican found him guilty and sentenced him to a lifetime of "penance and prayer".

He never faced criminal prosecution in Chile as too much time had passed, but the judge who heard victims' testimony in a year-long investigation described them as "truthful and reliable".

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