THE POPE will overlook escalating protests in the Dominican Kcpublic and celebrate Mass near a controversial multi-million pound memorial dedicated to Columbus. the Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said this week.
Mr Navarro-Valls stressed that the choice of Mass site, and the papal visit to the Caribbean republic, were unrelated to the inauguration on Tuesday of the new £60 million Columbus lighthouse in the capital, Santo Domingo.
Thousands of slum dwellers were removed from their homes to make way for the seven-storey, cross-shaped lighthouse, which has been criticised as a symbol of Spanish colonialism in an "enslaved" continent. The remains of Christopher Columbus will be housed inside.
Protest against the Columbus celebrations intensified in the Dominican Republic last week when three cities were paralysed by general strikes and students shut down a university.
"The Pope is not going to pay homage to Columbus. He is going to celebrate with his brothers in the episcopate the beginning of evangelisation in the Americas," said Mr Navarro-Valls.
The two-week Fourth Conference of the Latin American Episcopate will be opened by the Pope in Santo Domingo on Monday.
• An American Church historian claimed this week that Norwegian seafarers took Catholicism to the New World 400 years before Columbus set sail.