The Pope explained this Saturday to the presidents of Chile and Argentina, who visited the Holy Father to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1984 Peace and Friendship Treaty. The treaty -- which had been mediated by Pope John Paul II -- successfully averted a border war between the two primarily Catholic countries.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet arrived at the Vatican in one car, but were received by Benedict XVI separately. He met first with Fernandez de Kirchner, then with Bachelet. Both conversations lasted 20 minutes.
While one president spoke with the Pope, the other spoke with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Vatican secretary for relations with states.
A Vatican communiqué issued after private meetings revealed that "during the cordial talks, [the Pontiff recalled] the meritorious work of mediation carried out by the Servant of God Pope John Paul II and by deceased Cardinal Antonio Samore, who helped both countries through the path of dialogue to resolve an old territorial controversy."
In particular, the note continued, "the fact was recalled that, in the course of this quarter of a century, the agreement has given concrete fruits of good and prosperity to two nations and continues to be a model example for the countries of Latin America and for the whole international community. There was also an exchange of points of view on the present international situation."
Benedict XVI then addressed the two presidents at a joint meeting held in the Clementine Hall, during which he noted again how John Paul II's mediation not only served to avoid a war over border disputes, but above all to build a friendship that has now solidified.
"That historic event has contributed beneficially to reinforce in both countries feelings of fraternity, as well as a more determined cooperation and integration, made concrete in numerous economic projects, cultural exchanges and important works of infrastructure, thus overcoming prejudices, suspicions and reticence of the past," he said.
"Chile and Argentina are not just two neighbor nations but much more," the Pontiff noted. "They are two sister nations with a common vocation of fraternity, of respect and friendship, which to a large extent is the fruit of the Catholic tradition that is at the base of their history and of their rich cultural and spiritual patrimony.
"For the cause of peace to gain ground in the minds and hearts of all men and, in a special way, of those who are called to serve their citizens as the highest authorities of the nations, it is necessary that it be supported by firm moral convictions, in the serenity of spirits, at times tense and polarized, and in constant search for the common good, national, regional and worldwide."
"The attainment of peace requires the promotion of an authentic culture of life, which respects the dignity of the human being in fullness, joined to the strengthening of the family as basic cell of society," Benedict XVI continued.
"It also requires the constant struggle against poverty and corruption, access of quality education for all, solidary economic growth, the consolidation of democracy and the eradication of violence and exploitation, especially against women and children," he added.
After taking leave of the Pope, the two presidents visited the Grottoes of St. Peter's Basilica to pray at John Paul II's tomb.
Presidents Jorge Videla of Argentina and Augusto Pinochet of Chile were at the brink of war in December 1978 over a territorial dispute involving the Beagle channel and three small islands when John Paul II made a last-minute appeal for peace.
Both leaders agreed to a peace-treaty process, which began in January 1979 in Montevideo, Uruguay. After more than five years, the treaty was signed at the Vatican in 1984, which gave the islands to Chile, but maritime rights to Argentina.