Sunday, September 24, 2023

National search plan: The Chilean church offers itself as an intermediary to obtain information about missing prisoners

As part of the Ecumenical Te Deum, the liturgy of thanksgiving held since 1811 in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago de Chile on the occasion of the celebration of national holidays, the Archbishop of Santiago, the Spaniard Celestino Aós, presided over an appeal to people with information about the whereabouts the bodies of missing prisoners have to provide information about the church.

The announcement comes as Gabriel Boric’s left-wing government is launching a national search plan to find more than 1,000 people who disappeared during Augusto Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship. It is a program led by the Minister of Justice Luis Cordero and launched in connection with the 50th anniversary of the coup in Chile.

Cardinal Aós’ visit took place in the middle of the religious ceremony at the Cathedral of Santiago in the presence of representatives of the state and the armed forces. “It hurts those who see sisters and brothers suffering because they do not know the truth about their detained or missing loved ones,” said the ecclesiastical authority, recalling the role of the Church in protecting human rights over the years. the dictatorship in Chile.

Through the Vicariate of Solidarity, founded in 1976 by the then Archbishop of Santiago, Raúl Silva Henriquez, the Church played a central role in uncovering the truth about the torture, murders and enforced disappearances of people during the dark years of democratic collapse in South America Country. It provided legal, economic, technical and spiritual assistance to people and their families persecuted by the military dictatorship, defended their lives and demanded the freedom of those imprisoned.

In this sense, Aós’ words were emphatic for cooperation in the search for the truth: “Brothers who have information, we ask you to share this data for the good of the suffering family members and for your own good. We as a Catholic Church are perfectly available to provide the service of receiving information and transmitting it anonymously to the authorities.”

The archbishop’s words were appreciated by government authorities. The minister’s spokesperson, Camila Vallejo, noted that the announcement was “really important and significant” for the government. “We believe that it is a historic moment for our country in the context of 50 years that the Church has given this signal.” For his part, the Secretary General of the Presidency (Segpres), Álvaro Elizalde, pointed out that “this is an open wound is in our country and to this day the whereabouts of these people are unknown and therefore anything that can contribute to this.” We appreciate the National Search Plan sponsored by the government. To build a better future, we must heal the wounds of the past and that means moving forward in truth and justice and knowing the fate of the disappeared.” While Justice Minister Luis Cordero added that “Monsignor Aós’ announcement regarding the readiness to… “The National Search Plan is very relevant because the Church has always had an enduring stance and has done so recently.” “It has always played an important role in human rights.”

This is not the first time that the church in Chile has acted as an intermediary to gather information about missing prisoners. It played a similar role in the so-called Human Rights Dialogue Table, an initiative founded during the government of socialist Ricardo Lagos (2000-2006) that brought together military institutions, victims, churches and civil society. On this occasion, the military assured that many of the missing had been thrown into the sea, although it later emerged that some of this information was not effective.

“The lives of children as sacred and inviolable”

In his homily, Cardinal Celestino Aós also addressed the Church’s position on abortion in the context of the constitutional discussion taking place in Chile. “The Church advocates that the lives of children be defended as sacred and inviolable from the moment of their conception; so that birth is dignified, valued and supported legally, socially and legally. For this reason, the Church opposes any form of denial of human life and supports everything that promotes the natural order in the area of ​​the family institution,” he said.

His words were highlighted by opposition representatives. The President of the Senate, Juan Antonio Coloma of the traditionally right-wing Independent Democratic Union (UDI) party, highlighted both the references to the victims of enforced disappearances and the demand for the right to life of the unborn: “I believe that.” Both calls are very forceful in seeking the truth about people who have not been found for so long, and also in caring for the lives of not only those who are not there, but also those who may be there, some of whom do not want to be there that they are there be there. I think it is complete and in some ways it is logical to pray for Chile and for what is to come and to be able to address together the problems that we have. Both are realities that we must face.”

For his part, the Senator of the Republican Party, Rojo Edwards, pointed out that the words of the religious in the Te Deum should be those collected as part of the anniversary of the coup: “I believe that this Te Deum shows how it was during the celebrations should have been on September 11, instead of focusing on the figure of Allende, where in Chile we do not have this agreement, we have an agreement that human rights violations cannot be tolerated and the government has done the opposite of the things that we separated. Very different from what we see in this Te Deum defending the life of the unborn.”

The ministers also referred to the church’s position on abortion. “We know this position and we respect it. Now the constitutional process is independent of the government and the church. There are different points of view and if we have discussed it, and that is why we have a law in force, it does not mean that we want to enforce it. We understand that there are many who believe that life is at the moment of conception, but for us it is important not to continue to punish women because they decided to terminate their pregnancy in time due to rape. for example,” said speaker Camila Vallejo, while Minister Elizalde mentioned: “Chile is a diverse country with different opinions, so we must respect this diversity and in a democratic society like ours everyone can express their point of view.” .

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