Chile Celebrates "Easter"
Nation Thanks God of Life for Rescue of Miners
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SANTIAGO, Chile, OCT. 14, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Episcopal Conference of Chile says the nation is celebrating a type of Easter, with the completion Wednesday of a successful rescue of 33 miners trapped underground since Aug. 5.
The prelates noted the prayer vigils around the country that accompanied the last stage of the rescue, during which the miners were lifted one by one in a rescue capsule the 700 meters (2,300 feet) to fresh air.
"A grateful and emotional nation followed Operation St. Lawrence in detail," the prelates affirmed, noting the name of the rescue effort, selected for the patron of miners.
In the midst of the rescue, the bishops invited communities to "pray and thank the God of life for this Easter moment of which we are witnesses."
In Santiago, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz initiated a vigil for the success of the endeavor, prolonged until the last miner, Luis Urzúa, came out into the light.
"With our prayer we want to be united to these 33 miners and their families, united precisely in prayer, imploring the Lord that he might bring them all to the surface, that they might have no problems with their health once they come out and that this life, which for them will be a new life that begins, may at all times have God's blessing," the cardinal said at the beginning of the vigil. "That it may be a very happy family life. We want to pray for this rescue and at the same time for the life that begins in them."
Bishop Cristián Contreras Molina of San Felipe gave the homily, reflecting on John 3:1-8, when Nicodemus speaks with Jesus about being born anew.
He reflected how the news that the miners were alive -- they were discovered 17 days after the rockfall that entrapped them -- spread "even faster than the tragedies and scandals that usually monopolize the front page."
"Not only were they alive," he continued, "but in an initial contact they asked about the fate of other workers who were in the mine at the time of the collapse: a lesson of solidarity and an authentic Chilean spirit."
The bishop continued: "Men and women, children and elderly, whole families took to the streets to celebrate, they gathered in public squares, and from the tops of buildings, people could be heard crying: 'They are alive, they are alive! Miracle! Thank God!'
"Everyone wanted to proclaim [the good news], everyone wanted to comment on it, all rejoiced and were overwhelmed with the announcement that life had triumphed over the worst predictions of death and tragedy."
Bishop Contreras Molina compared the joy to that which "we Christians are called to communicate everywhere," that is, "the gift of our encounter with Jesus Christ."
Bishop Gaspar Quintana Jorquera of Copiapo, the diocese where the mine is located, continued his support of the operation throughout the 70 days.
He pointed to lessons to be learned from the accident: "basically to build a society where the right to work in conditions of safety is respected, and where each one assumes the responsibility that corresponds to him so that events like this will not happen again."
Each Sunday afternoon during the long wait for the rescue shaft to be drilled, the bishop celebrated Mass for the miners' families.
Hours before the beginning of the final stage of the rescue operation, the bishop of Copiapo celebrated a Mass attended by the miners' families and government authorities, including President Sebastián Piñera, his wife Cecilia Morel, and the mayor of the region, Ximena Matas.
Wednesday, Bishop Quintana Jorquera spoke with some of the relatives, urging them to be strong and hopeful, and to share the joy of the families that had already recovered their loved ones. Afterward, he returned to Copiapo to preside over a Mass of thanksgiving in the Shrine of the Candelaria.