Pope Says Chile Needs Spirit of Forgiveness in Order to Recover

Church in Country Aids with National Reconciliation

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 15, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II called for national reconciliation in Chile in order to heal the wounds of the last three decades.



The aftereffects of Salvador Allende's presidency (1970-1973) and General Augusto Pinochet's military regime (1973-1990) are still felt in the South American country.

When the Pope met today with Chilean bishops at the end of their every-five-year visit to Rome, he referred to the crucial challenge facing the Church in their nation and urged citizens to attain "fully reconciled coexistence in which, without hiding the truth, room will be made for forgiveness."

Forgiveness "heals wounds and re-establishes, profoundly, truncated human relations," the Holy Father said.

In this context, he said, the Church "whose mission is to be an instrument of reconciliation of men with God and among themselves, must be the house and school of communion in which what is positive in the other is appreciated and accepted, and in which no one feels excluded."

The Catholic Church in Chile is committed to the Table of Dialogue, established in 1999 to promote national reconciliation.

In a March 2001 address to the members of the Table and to President Ricardo Lagos, the president of the bishops' conference of Chile, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, described the nation's three great open wounds: poverty and enormous inequality; the family, wounded by numerous factors; and violence, which in past years violated the dignity of individuals, families, groups and institutions.

The Church has expressed its willingness to gather information so that the families of people who "disappeared" will be able to find out what happened to their loved ones.

In statements to the press Oct. 6 in Rome, Cardinal Errázuriz said that the Church is "an excellent channel" for people to share information related to human rights, since the Church guarantees absolute discretion.

"We have always made this appeal: The person who has information must hand it in, given that people have the right to know what happened to their relatives and if they were buried," the Chilean cardinal stressed.

"All this is a right of the family, of the person," he said. "Naturally, I understand that they fear for their future if they hand over information, and this is why the Church is always ready to receive them with the greatest reserve."