PUERTO MALDONADO, Peru (AP) – The Latest on Pope Francis’ visit to Peru (all times local):
Amazonian indigenous leaders in Peru are urging Pope Francis to help them protect the world’s largest rainforest from an onslaught of new threats that are dramatically changing the biome.
One of the leaders is Hector Sueyo. He tells Pope Francis that native peoples are worried about the Amazon as trees disappear, fish die and rivers become contaminated.
Sueyo said Friday that “the sky is angry and is crying because we are destroying the planet.”
Francis has previously spoken about the need to protect the Amazon, which he likens to one of the “lungs of our planet.”
Thousands of indigenous men, women and children, many bare-chested and wearing brightly-colored headdresses are gathered in a coliseum to hear Francis speak.
Pope Francis is receiving a warm welcome in the Peruvian Amazon city of Puerto Maldonado, with supporters lining the streets to greet him ahead of the pontiff’s planned meeting with indigenous people.
Some are running up along the pontiff’s motorcade carrying Vatican-colored yellow and white balloons, while others cheer and wave.
Friday’s scene is a stark contrast to the pope’s visit earlier this week to Chile, where he drew smaller crowds and his presence provoked protests.
Indigenous leaders are hoping the pope will deliver a forceful message encouraging the government to recognize their land rights and clean up rivers contaminated by illegal mining.
Francis has previously spoken about the need to protect the Amazon.