LIMA – A giant statue of Christ in Peru’s capital was damaged Saturday in a fire, with only few days left before Pope Francis is set to arrive in the South American nation.
The 69-foot (21-meter) $1 million statue – “Christ of the Pacific” – was donated by Brazilian company Odebrecht in 2011.
A spokesperson with Peru’s firefighting corps told RPP Noticias that two dozen firefighters responded to the blaze and that while the cause remains under investigation, one working theory is that the was purposed set aflame.
In January 2017, vandals covered the statue in messages like “Out of the country Odebrecht.”
The Christ statue’s burning comes five days before Francis is scheduled to arrive in Peru.
The pontiff has hoped to highlight the need to protect the Amazon rainforest during his visit, but Peruvians will be paying close attention to whether he addresses corruption.
Francis will arrive first in Chile on Monday. Authorities there are on guard after several Roman Catholic churches in the capital, Santiago, were firebombed with pamphlets left at one scene threatening the pontiff: “The next bombs will be in your cassock.”
The pamphlets also extolled the cause of the Mapuche indigenous people, who are pushing for a return of ancestral lands and other rights.