By Linda Bordoni
Papal visit organizers in Santiago, the capital of Chile where Pope Francis kicks off his 22nd apostolic visit abroad say everything is on track as the nation prepares to welcome the Pope.
Despite the complex challenges faced by the country and its Church today, a high number of people are expected to participate in the event, with an estimated over 1 million 200,000 due to arrive from throughout the country and from Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil.
Organizers have been working full steam and counting on the cooperation of thousands of volunteers.
Communication strategy for papal visit
Heading the Communication Department of the National Commission for the Apostolic Visit is Father Felipe Herrera. He spoke to Vatican News correspondent Stefan von Kempis of the huge challenges posed by contemporary lifestyle and the sheer quantity of information each one of us is offered 24 hours per day on social media.
The most difficult task, Herrera said, is to reach the heart of people in a world that is so full of information. People, he continued, are exposed to and receive messages all the time, so we must make sure the message of the Gospel can make its way through this glut of information and find a place on the media agenda and on the net.
“That’s why we have developed a media strategy here in Chile where most of the population has its main source of information on their smartphones so our strategy has been there” he said.
Of course, Herrera said, the mainstream media has been involved with work done on websites and newspapers etc., but “our strategy has been there, where people are living in a world that is collapsing under all this information”.
A divided society
Herrera said he is looking forward to what is the Pope isgoing to say: “He always says something unexpected and new – we need it – in the past ten years Chile has become more and more divided”.
He spoke of individualism and the lack of social cohesion as major factors in a societal crisis “so we are hoping for words that can help us see each other as brothers and sisters”.
“The society is very divided but the word of the Lord has a particular grace” he said.
Herrera pointed out that the Pope comes to speak not only to Chile, but to the world, to all the immigrants in the country, to non-Christians and even to non-believers.
He said Francis is a moral authority who has much to say about issues like poverty, marginalization, problems with migrants, the need to close the gap between poor and rich.
“His message can make a difference to anyone whose heart is open” he said.
Sustainable vision of the visit
One aspect Herrera was keen to highlight is that organizers have prepared this visit in a sustainable way.
“We have prepared a series of documents that aim to inspire sustainability: environmental sustainability, economic and social sustainability” he said.
He said that many of the people helping out are not believers, “but we gave each of them a copy of ‘Laudato Sì’ and every single one of them loved it!”
“From the environmental point of view we are trying to have no emissions of CO2; we are aiming to make sure that the venues where the Pope will hold his events remain cleaner than they were before; we are making sure the disabled have front-row seats and that there are translations for the hearing impaired; and in the economic area we are working on absolute transparency” he said.
He also said the national commission for the apostolic visit has published the budget: “something that is very unusual! And when the visit is over we will publish which were the incomes and expenditures: we want to be absolutely transparent and act in the same way as the Pope dealing with the IOR and other economic realities”.