The Pope married two flight attendants in an impromptu midair wedding

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On Thursday, the pope's remarks dismissing Barros' critics came in Iquique, where the controversial bishop was on hand as Francis celebrated a mass at a beach.

Francis, a native of Argentina, is on a two-country, six-city apostolic visit that started in Chile and ends in Peru next week.

"That's all they said, and I said, oh that's interesting".

Local Catholic groups in Barros' southern diocese of Osorno are demanding that Francis remove him for his ties to one of the highest-profile abusers, disgraced paedophile priest Fernando Karadima.

Anne Barrett Doyle, of the online database BishopAccountability.org, said it was "sad and wrong" for the pope to discredit the victims since "the burden of proof here rests with the church, not the victims - and especially not with victims whose veracity has already been affirmed".

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A Mexican former priest turned activist, Alberto Athie, said victims who accuse Barros of a cover-up have wanted to give their testimony before the Vatican, but have never been summoned.

Pope Francis on Thursday performed another first, a wedding ceremony for a steward and stewardess, aboard a plane taking him between two Chilean cities.

"As if I could have taken a selfie or a photo while Karadima abused me and others and Juan Barros stood by watching it all", tweeted Barros' most vocal accuser, Juan Carlos Cruz. "There is not one shred of proof against him".

The document was signed by Pope Francis, the couple and the witness.

"The pope married us, the pope married us", he said. Barros's ordination ceremony had to be cut short over protests in the cathedral. "Who knows how many victims now will decide to stay hidden, for fear they will not be believed?"

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At least five Catholic churches have been attacked in Chile over the past week, some with firebombs.

"This land is a land of dreams, but let us work to ensure that it also continues to be a land of hospitality", said Francis in his homily.

One Karadima victim said the Pope's earlier plea for forgiveness over clerical sex abuse was "empty".

A Vatican official hastily drew up an official, albeit handwritten marriage certificate, stating that the two had consented to the sacrament of marriage on January 18 and that Francis had celebrated the marriage "aboard the papal plane from Santiago to Iquique". "Show me some proof, '" Navia said, adding that the comment will probably erase any good will the pope had won over the issue.

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