Chile beefs up border crossings ahead of Pope’s visit

SANTIAGO – Chile has said it would beef up border policing ahead of a wave of visitors likely to arrive in the country from neighboring countries next month during a visit of Pope Francis.

With less than three weeks until the Pope’s arrival, Chilean authorities said they were working with the Roman Catholic Church to prepare for an onslaught of tourists at the peak of the austral summer, a traditional time for vacationing in both countries.

“We are going to see a record number of (foreign) visitors,” Reginaldo Flores, the head of the interior ministry’s border crossings unit, told reporters.

Starting in Chile on Jan. 15, the Argentine pontiff will go to the cities of Santiago, Temuco and Iquique, before heading to Peru, where he will stop in Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo.

A planned mass in the Chilean capital of Santiago is expected to attract more than 500,000 people. Thousands of police officers will be present, officials said.

Since his election to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in 2013, Francis, the first Latin American pope, has visited Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Cuba and Mexico, but has not made a pastoral trip to Argentina.