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Montevideo, September 23rd 2023 - 06:59 UTC



Argentina/Chile celebrate John Paul II 1978 peace efforts

Monday, December 22nd 2008 - 20:00 UTC
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The governments of Argentina and Chile are celebrating on Monday almost simultaneously religious services in the Basilica of Lujan and in the Maipu national sanctuary, respectively, to honour the memory of Pope John Paul II and his peace efforts which thirty years ago prevented a full fledged war between the neighbouring countries.

The military dictatorship of Argentina in December 1978 had ordered its forces to invade southern Chile and capture three disputed islands in the Beagle Channel, next to Tierra del Fuego, unsatisfied with an international ruling on the extreme south boundaries. Chile's dictator General Augusto Pinochet was prepared for the attack and war seemed inevitable until Pope John Paul II, just before Christmas (December 22nd) and only two months in office, implored to both military rulers avoiding the armed conflict and putting the founding stone for a several years peace negotiations process which was confirmed by a referendum in 1984, with Argentina ruled by a democratically elected government. The indefatigable architect of the peace process which was launched in Montevideo, Uruguay in January 1979 was Cardinal Antonio Samoré, who had the Vatican post equivalent to Foreign Secretary. The main ceremony in Buenos Aires was presided by the head of the Argentine Episcopal Conference Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio and concelebrated by thirty other bishops all over the country. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was present at Lujan with all her cabinet and members of Congress. With only an hour's difference, the Chilean government and Catholic Church repeated the ceremonies with the main mass at the Maipu national sanctuary which is dedicated to the Chile's Virgen del Carmen. According to the program a fraternity gesture between both neighbouring peoples has been planned: a Chilean family living in Argentina will receive an image of the Virgen de Lujan and an Argentine family residing in Chile will be given a replica of the Virgen del Carmen. For the Argentine Episcopal Conference it's a "historic event" which will send a strong signal for "the need of unity among Argentines" and recall the instrument of mediation as "an admirable example of peace building through dialogue", paraphrasing Pope Benedict XVI recent statements remembering the occasion. This is not the first remembrance ceremony: Presidents Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Michelle Bachelet only a few days ago met in Punta Arenas and Rio Gallegos, (the epicentres of the to be conflict) and laid the founding stone for a monument to peace dedicated to John Paul II at the Aymond pass which links both Patagonian cities.

Categories: Politics, Mercosur.

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