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By Antonio De la Jara

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Vandals in Santiago attacked three churches before dawn on Friday, throwing homemade bombs that caused minor damage and leaving notes threatening Pope Francis just three days ahead of the pontiff's visit to Chile next week, police said.

The vandals, whose identity is still unknown, set fire to at least one of the churches in the nation's capital city and tossed pamphlets on the street as they fled.

One of the pamphlets read: "Pope Francis, the next bomb will be in your robe," authorities said.

"One has the right to protest, but it's a different thing entirely to use violence," Interior Minister Mahmud Aleuy told reporters early on Friday after inspecting the damage inflicted on the churches.

Francis, who hails from Argentina and is the first Latin American pope, arrives in Chile on Monday. A Mass he has planned to hold on Tuesday in a Santiago park is expected to attract more than 500,000 people.

Protests on issues ranging from indigenous rights to the Church's ongoing sexual abuse scandal are expected.

Francis will also visit the south-central city of Temuco and Iquique, which is farther north, before heading to Peru, where he will stop in Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo.

(Reporting by Antonio De la Jara; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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The citizens' meeting

The citizens' meeting

The citizens' meeting

Reuters