Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Cardinal Raul Silva Henriquez, the Catholic Church, and the Pinochet Regime, 1973-1980: Public Responses to a National Security State

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Cardinal Raul Silva Henriquez, the Catholic Church, and the Pinochet Regime, 1973-1980: Public Responses to a National Security State

Article excerpt

After the military coup of 1973 Augusto Pinochet created the means to reinvent Chile in terms of a country that was under attack from foreign elements. As political parties and all public organizations were banned, the Catholic Church assumed the task of defender of human rights and opposition party.

This paper examines the role of Cardinal Silva Henriquez and his response to an ongoing national crisis through his personal memoirs. The paper concludes that Cardinal Silva became a defender of human rights and himself an enemy of the Chilean State because of his Christian convictions and his own sense of service to the poor and to the youth in the context of the Catholic Church in Latin America.

I. Introduction

It has been widely recognized by researchers that the Catholic Church in Chile played an important role in the national affairs of Chile during the period of government of General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).1 Within those writings, the Church has been perceived as the hierarchy, and in general authors have outlined the role of the Church as institution.2 Less has been written about the social history of individuals within the Church, or on the ecclesial and human experience of the basic Christian Communities or the parishes in dioceses outside Santiago.5

Moreover, it can be suggested that within an authoritarian regime that controlled the existence of political parties, trade unions, and workers' unions the Catholic Church became the only public voice allowed within Chile and an important contact of information with international organizations and governments outside Chile. As a result of such work and in recognition for its defense of human rights the Catholic Church was granted several international prizes, e.g., the United Nations prize for human rights (1978) and the Austrian Bruno Kreisky Foundation prize for human rights (1979).4

Within that experience of Chilean political conflict and ecclesial growth Cardinal RaUl Silva Henriquez played a central role. Other bishops could have decided to take other decisions, to do other things, to avoid an ecclesial involvement in Chilean affairs. Cardinal Silva Henriquez decided that the Church was called to be involved and he became a controversial figure who was liked by some and despised by others. Nevertheless, the massive gathering of people from all walks of life at his funeral in 1999 suggested that he had led a Church that had been involved in the lives of people and in the national life of Chile.5

This paper examines the involvement by the Catholic Church in Chile during the first period of the military regime (1973-1980),6 by assessing the words and actions of Cardinal Suva as narrated in his own memoirs.71 have elsewhere examined the social role played by the Vicaria de la Solidaridad, the documents by the Chilean bishops that engage with national social realities and the issues of the disappeared and their families' loss of Catholic funerals as fundamental rites of passage and rites of life.8 There is no doubt that Cardinal Suva played a central leadership role throughout those years of change, conflict, and suffering for many Chileans. However, it would be difficult to understand such a role without focusing on the Cardinal's formation as a Salesian priest, and the centrality of the post-military coup political repression that triggered some of his directives for the Santiago Archdiocese and the Chilean Church in general.

The conclusions of this study argue that Cardinal Suva managed to engage the Catholic Church with public concerns within a difficult political period in Chilean history by supporting ecclesial, social, and political organizations. Cardinal Suva followed the directives of the second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the Latin American Bishops' Conference of Medellin (1968) to the point where the Chilean Church became an example for other more traditional (inward looking) episcopal conferences.

II. The Making of a Cardinal

Haul Suva Henriquez was born in Talca, southern Chile, on September 27,1907, being number sixteen among nineteen brothers and sisters. After attending schools in Talca and Santiago, he studied law at the Catholic University and graduated as a lawyer. On January 28,1930, he entered the novitiate of the Salesians (ODB), a religious congregation founded by St. John Bosco in Italy, dedicated to the service of the youth, and after years of study in Chile and Italy he was ordained as a priest in Turin on july 3,1938.

The cards (santitos) distributed at his ordination and first Mass have already the sentence (motto) that he "was later to adopt when becoming a bishop: Caritas Christi urget nos (the love of Christ urges us, the love of Christ demands from us). Silva Henriquez recognized in his memoirs that Don Bosco's concern for poor children and for a just society made an impact on his formative years as a Salesian and as a priest. For Don Bosco the Church was to locate herself at the center of society, where she could mediate between the rich and the poor. On the one hand, Don Bosco told the rich that they had an obligation to share -with the poor in order to prevent unrest and revolutions; on the other hand, he did them a favor when asking on behalf of the poor because the rich were given the opportunity to practice charity toward others and therefore attain salvation. As a result of those years of priestly formation Silva Henriquez felt a great enthusiasm for integrating the Church and society, in order to create a just society arising of a common Catholic faith, feelings that became a goal within his pastoral activities.9

On his return to Chile he taught at the Salesian theological college (Instituto Teologico Salesiano), and became involved in the foundation of a new Salesian school, the Liceo Manuel Arriaran Barros, that was located in La Cisterna, at that time a rural town outside Santiago.10 The school became part of a larger complex (Obra de Don Bosco, Liceo Manuel Arriaran Barros, and Instituto Teologico Salesiano) in which the Salesian Novitiate and the Theological College were also located. Silva Henriquez became the first headmaster of the new school (1943-1948), emphasizing the mission of the school to educate children from families unable to pay for their education. Later, in 1948, Silva Henriquez was appointed headmaster of the Patrocinio San Jose, the largest and most important Salesian school in Chile. However, his work there, while intensive in modernizing life and education at the school, was short.

In 1950 he was reappointed director of the Salesian Theological College, where he spent another six years of active ministry. It is possible to suggest that during those years Silva Henriquez experienced and directed some of the apostolates that he was to implement within the Santiago Archdiocese in the 1970's. For example, he was appointed member of the executive committee that in the 1950's responded to the Vatican's guidelines on renewal of the religious life and religious men and women's involvement in pastoral work. During those years he also directed the reception and work with refugees who were arriving in Chile as a result of the political conflicts that followed World War II in Europe.

In 1956 Silva Henriquez was appointed director of the Liceo Gratitud National, the largest Salesian school in Santiago. By that time he had started work with Caritas International and Catholic Relief Services in order to help refugees and immigrants, prisoners in Chilean jails, the elderly, and the unemployed with food and shelter. Already in 1957 the organization chaired by Silva Henriquez was providing material help to 700,000 people, regardless of their creed or political affiliation. Other initiatives such as milk for poor children, furniture for the unemployed, a hospital for lepers on Easter Island, and a holiday complex where poor children could stay for two weeks over the summer, became initiatives propagated by Silva Henriquez. However, those initiatives were not free of controversy, as farmers accused him of boycotting their commercialization of dairy products. It is clear that that was not the case as Caritas provided 100,000 liters of milk per year, while the shortage of milk in Chile extended to 600,000 litres in 1958."

In 1959 he returned to the Patrocinio San Jose, in order to live there and direct Caritas and all its work on behalf of the dispossessed. However, on October 24,1959, he was appointed Bishop of Valparaiso. In his own words,"! accepted to be a Bishop in order to announce the Kingdom of God to the poor." 12He reorganized the Valparaiso Diocese, and appointed a large number of diocesan assessors in order to share decisions (among those Father Carlos Camus and Father Sergio Contreras, later appointed bishops, and Father Michael Woodward, assassinated in Valparaiso after the military coup).'5 After nineteen months of intense work in Valparaiso he was appointed Archbishop of Santiago on May 24,1961. Later, Pope John XXIII appointed him a cardinal on February 7,1962, the year in which the second Vatican Council started.

In the following years, Silva Henriquez reorganized the Archdiocese of Santiago in the midst of controversy. Within an international climate of a "cold \var" he felt pressure from religious, social, and political groups that wanted a complete isolation from involvement in the social and the political. However, he also faced demands from factions within the Catholic Church and "within his own clergy, particularly from groups that felt he was too slow in implementing the directives of the second Vatican Council. Later, he faced pressure for a servant Church and a Church of the poor by some of his clergy, a practice initially suggested by the meeting of Latin American bishops in Medellin (Colombia, 1968). Silva Henriquez started a program of agrarian reform within the Church and sold all lands that were not used by the Church. he also pushed for a reform of the seminary, the faculty of theology, and the pastoral areas of Santiago.

Regardless of public or internal criticism, Silva Henriquez became a central participant in Chilean political life during the governments of Eduardo Frei Montalva (1964-1970) and Salvador Allende (1970-1973). It is possible to suggest that being leader of the most important diocese in Chile over a period of ten years made him into a cardinal who was able to react to political events and take difficult decisions without worrying about being accepted and supported by all. Further, his vision of the role of the Church was very different from that of his predecessors. Silva Henriquez was not a traditional Catholic in that he saw the role of the Church as being involved in the world and in society for the sake of service rather than for the sake of image, political ends, and social acceptance. For example, it is clear that Silva Henriquez, and therefore the Catholic Church, was not liked or accepted by Pinochet, who considered that Marxists and Communists had infiltrated the Church. Such an accusation did not bother Silva Henriquez, who "was convinced that the role of the Church at that time was to get involved in serving the suffering and the persecuted.

III. The Cardinal and the Military Coup

During Salvador Allende's government (1970-1973) Suva Henriquez had been heavily attacked by Catholic traditional groups because he had appeared together with Allende at several public events including the celebration of the 1st of May, 1971, a Chilean national holiday in which workers and left-wing political parties held a public rally. Later that year, on November 23,1971, Cardinal Suva had greeted Fidel Castro, the Cuban leader, on his visit to the Archbishopric. Castro had requested such a visit, and Suva Henriquez had consulted Pope Paul VI, who encouraged him to meet the Cuban leader. During their encounter Silva Henriquez reiterated the message of the bishops at Medellin for liberation from oppression that united all those challenging structures that oppressed the poor of Latin America." After those occasions, some sectors of the Chilean press started giving him a nickname, i.e. "the red Cardinal," associating him with the plight of the left-wing parties and the Communists.

However, Silva Henriquez had also been criticized by radical members of the Church and by some clergy for his lack of support for those who associated the values of the Gospel with socialism, for example, the movement Christians for Socialism." Before the military coup the Cardinal had tried to bring together President Allende and opposition leaders at his house in order to try to persuade them to find a political solution to all division and hatred within a national political climate of increasing verbal violence and abuse. It is clear that Silva Henriquez tried to understand the intentions of Allende and his politicians in order to serve the interests of the poor and the marginalized.

The military coup took place on September 11,1973. The military action was well organized and executed, bloody, and with a force not previously experienced by the Chilean population of the twentieth century. The Cardinal heard the news through the radio, alerted by his secretary, Father Luis Antonio Diaz, and a religious sister, Madre Socorro, who looked after his meals, guests, and the daily routines at the Cardinal's residence. Throughout the day the Cardinal had calls from bishops, priests, and friends who told him of the violence and destruction all over the country and of Allende's death. Suva Henriquez remained in his private studio that day and the following, praying and trying to decide what to do as the curfew dictated by the military did not allow him to leave his house. he was sixty-six years of age, and clearly he felt that the trials ahead were overwhelming.16

However, on September 13 Bishops Jose Manual Santos and Sergio Contreras managed, with the help of the Bishop for the Armed Forces, Francisco Javier Gilmore, to get a military escort in order to go to the Cardinal's house and have the previously scheduled meeting of the Permanent Committee of the Chilean Episcopal Conference.17 At that meeting they prepared a written declaration to be given to the media the following day. In that letter they expressed sorrow for the violence and the blood in the streets, and they asked for compassion on the part of the authorities toward those who had ceased to be in power. They also asked that the memory of the dead be respected, particularly that of President Salvador Allende, who had died at the presidential palace on the day of the military coup.18

The declaration appeared in the censured newspapers of September 14, and the Cardinal's secretary brought a copy to the Ministry of Defense. At the Ministry Father Diaz was told that some references to blood, to Allende, and to hatred were not proper, and those words should be omitted. However, it was clear that the new government was not aware that the Chilean newspapers had already published the declaration.

As a result of such a declaration, relations between the military government and the Cardinal became tense from the start. The bishops' declaration and the adverse reaction by the military government were only the beginning of a difficult period of negotiations between Church and State. Already on September 14 Bishop Gilmore visited the Cardinal with the request of the military to celebrate a liturgical Te Deum on the Chilean national day, September 18. The Te Deum has been a customary ecumenical service of prayer for Chile that commemorated the first independent Chilean interim government {Junta de Gobierno) formed on September 18, 1810, and was considered the day of Chilean independence from Spain. In that liturgical service it was customary for the Chilean Cardinal to preside and to deliver a homily (sermon, speech) that gave thanks to God and commented on some of the pressing realities related to social and political life.19

However, the request of the new military government was for the liturgical ceremony to take place at the Military Academy (Escuela Militar) rather than at the Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral. The Cardinal expressed his reservations and requested a meeting with the military junta that had taken over political power. They met on Sunday, September 16. At that meeting the Cardinal rejected the idea of a service at the Military Academy, because it would have symbolized a church that was taking sides with the military, and he strongly suggested that the Cathedral should be the place for the liturgical service. In response, military advisors suggested that there were snipers in the area and that it was not safe for anybody. The Cardinal agreed to that analysis and suggested that the liturgical service could be conducted at the National Temple in Maipu, outside Santiago, built at the location where the last battle for independence had been fought. The Cardinal's idea was rejected, and finally the Cardinal suggested the Church of the Gratitud Nacional, built after the end of the Pacific War against Peru and Bolivia, an idea that was welcomed by the military.

On September 18 at the Te Deum the Cardinal did not wear his Cardinal's vestments, but the purple robe used on occasions of public bereavement. Most people did not notice that; however, the clergy was able to see the Cardinal's bereavement for a country that was mourning the dead. In his homily, read by himself, he repeated a couple of paragraphs that had been read in the first Te Deum attended by President Allende in September, 1970. Three years before, the Cardinal suggested that those present were responsible for the building up of the Chilean nation (Ia patria). In order to do so they should want to make a commitment to those hungry for justice, and a commitment to be builders of a more just and human world. The kind of world required in the Chile of that time was to be a world with more solidarity and peace, a peace wanted by most people, a peace that brings the always wanted liberation.20

In his memoirs, Suva Henriquez suggested that from that moment it was clear to him that the Church would have to be on the side of the victims, without asking their color or political ideology.21 The only way to do that was to protect people's human rights, regardless of an ongoing critique of the Allende government and the support by others of a prolonged military government in Chile. For Suva Henriquez it was clear that the Chilean bishops never disagreed with such a reading of the situation. As a result, and in the years to come, the Archdiocese of Santiago, led by Suva Henriquez, was to become the center of a day-today response to political and social events in a way that had never happened before. The centrality of the city of Santiago contributed to that influential role played by Suva Henriquez. Almost half of the Chilean population lives in Santiago, and since the period of independence the Chilean Congress and the national centralized administration had all been concentrated there.22

On the same day Bishop Fernando Aristia, auxiliary Bishop of Santiago, wrote to General Pinochet with information on arrests and killings. The information gathered by Aristia suggested that many of those who were killed and whose bodies appeared in the waters of the Mapocho River had been arrested and brought to the National Stadium for interrogation. In fact, the National Stadium became for a few weeks the central point for all prisoners to be interrogated by using extreme force and torture.23 Some of them were executed, for example, the U.S. citizens Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi.24

On Monday, September 24, 1973, Suva Henriquez and his secretary visited the National Stadium. If previously he had been aware that violence against political opponents was taking place, the visit provided another turning point for the Cardinal's proactive role in the defense of human rights during the next decade of his active life. Suva Henriquez intended to visit all the rooms where prisoners were kept; however, at the end he visited only the changing rooms of the football stadium. Prisoners spoke to him requesting that he would inform their families, and they asked him for material and legal support. Silva Henriquez narrates in his diary how he asked his secretary to take note of everything in order to bring news to prisoners' families. However, he felt overwhelmed and ill. A soldier offered him the use of a microphone located at the football field where he could speak to all of them. After identifying himself to the prisoners, he told them that he represented "a Church that is servant of all, especially of those who are suffering."25

During the following days Silva Henriquez noticed hundreds of people requesting help at the archdiocesan offices. he instructed his secretary to form a small team that would write down the details of those arriving at the offices in order to try to help them in some way. Father Diaz managed to recruit a social worker, a secretary (Jorge Murillo, later Father Murillo), and a lawyer, Jaime Irrarazaval, at that time a professor at the Catholic University. As a result of such preliminary effort to face the difficult situation that was unfolding after the coup, the Cardinal received a protest from the association of Chilean lawyers for offering legal advice outside a recognized attorney's office. By the end of September his house was searched by the military with the excuse of looking for a plastic object that had fallen from a plane that was never found.

As a result of increasing negotiations between the Church and the State, the military junta appointed a retired Army General, Jorge Court, as an intermediary between Pinochet and Silva Henriquez. It was an early sign that relations between the new Chilean government and the Chilean Catholic Church were to become ever more important, however strained. By the end of 1973 the military government was not happy with the lack of proactive support it received from the Catholic Church. Silva Henriquez was on his part anxious and resentful toward the military that in two months had managed to exercise excessive violence against parishes, schools, and convents, resulting in the arrest of Catholic priests and religious sisters, and the constant harassment of foreign missionaries. By December, 1973, three priests had been killed (Michael Woodward, Gerardo Poblete, and Joan Alsina), while more than forty-five priests had been arrested and fifty foreign missionaries had been deported.26

After an initial state of shock and disbelief, and within the weeks following the military coup, Silva Henriquez organized a vast collaborative and ecumenical effort with other churches in order to help prisoners and their relatives. he carried out such an enterprise within a situation where fear and violence became the norm for daily civilian life. On October 9,1973, the Committee for Peace (Comite Pro Paz or COPACHI) was created, supported by several churches and religious organizations (World Council of Churches, Baptist Church, Methodist Church, Orthodox Church, Jewish Community, and Catholic Church). The Catholic Church provided a house on Santa Monica Street for this purpose and created COPACHI by decree 158-73 of the Archdiocese of Santiago. COPACHI started by providing legal and material aid to those who asked for it; however, later it started providing legal advice and information on cases of Chileans arrested, tortured, or killed and those who had disappeared.

In the same month Pope Paul VI, who was getting information through different religious congregations and support groups for democracy in Chile, sent the draft of a letter expressing sorrow and concern for the Chilean political situation after the military coup. The Pope suggested that the Chilean bishops should read it, could comment on it, and should advise the Pope on the time when such a letter would be sent to the military junta and published in the international media. The Cardinal wrote to Paul VI, asking him not to publish the letter. In his opinion such a publication would have created a complete breakdown in relations between the military government and the Church. Silva Henriquez adopted the same cautious approach to a suggested public denunciation of human rights abuses made at a meeting of bishops on October 19,1973. At that meeting some bishops suggested a public denunciation of human rights abuses perpetrated in the name of freedom and stability by the Chilean armed forces.27

A crisis at the Catholic University also took place in October. The University Rector, Jorge Swett, a retired admiral, appointed by the military government in October, 1973, had taken all sorts of decisions without consultation with the Church. Hundreds of resignations followed his appointment. Swett sacked professors who did not agree with his authoritarian system of governance. By October, 1974, Swett had proposed to change the system of elections within the Catholic University without any consultation with the Cardinal. Silva Henriquez decided to announce his resignation as University Chancellor, and appointed Father Jorge Medina as an intermediary between the new authorities and himself. According to Silva Henriquez, he opposed the lack of academic freedom by staff and students alike that had been imposed by Swett. In fact, Swett organized the Catholic University as if it were one of the training centers for army officers.

However, it was the work of COPACHI that was to create a complete impasse between Silva Henriquez and Pinochet. By 1974 COPACHI had established a large network in order to help relatives of the disappeared and had provided information to the press and to international organizations regarding human rights abuses in Chile. The security forces had closely monitored the offices of COPACHI and had arrested and threatened those working for the organization. In January, 1974, the first legal challenges to the unclear situation of the disappeared were filed in the Santiago tribunals through petitions of habeas corpus. By mid-1974 COPACHI had 103 staff members in Santiago and ninety-five others in the provinces. There were twenty-four different offices throughout Chile that included departments dealing with legal assistance, employment, universities, health care, solidarity, rural development, and agricultural workers.

In April, 1974, Manuel Contreras, director of the DINA (security services responsible for most of the human rights violations), visited Silva Henriquez and warned him that his safety could be at risk if the Church continued to interfere with politically sensitive areas entrusted to the military government and to the police. Further, Contreras suggested that the Cardinal needed DINA agents to protect him. Silva Henriquez refused to have them. Later, there were death-threats against Silva Henriquez and his secretary, who was followed by agents in a car that tried to intimidate him.

In August, 1974, General Pinochet wrote to the Cardinal a private note, informing him of concerns regarding the involvement of Communists within parishes, particularly in working-class areas of Santiago. Pinochet alleged that he had written proofs of this, most probably reports from the DINA. The Cardinal replied with a letter dated September 4, the traditional day for elections in Chile, in which he explained to Pinochet that COPACHI had the support not only of the Catholic Church but also of several other churches. The Cardinal suggested that none of these problems would have happened if the military government had changed its policies that fostered a police state. Such policies were, in the words of Silva Henriquez, damaging the reputation of the Chilean armed forces. Pinochet was furious about this letter and the subsequent negative response by Silva Henriquez to Pinochet's request to preside at a special Mass of thanksgiving on the first anniversary of the military coup.

As the political repression escalated, Silva Henriquez sometimes had to negotiate directly with Pinochet in order to save lives. For example, on May 15,1975, Silva Henriquez had to diffuse a difficult situation between the DINA and the staff at COPACHI. The DINA brought Jaime Zamora Herrera, a young Socialist, to the street where COPACHI was located. The idea was that Zamora would identify his contacts within COPACHI as they left the office at 5:00 P.M. However, Zamora managed to escape and sought refuge in the building. DINA agents pursued him, but they stopped when they realized that it was a public building that belonged to the Catholic Church. However, the whole building remained under siege for the next couple of hours. Bishop Alvear, who was inside the building, called the Cardinal telling him that hundreds of DINA agents had surrounded the building. What followed was a political gamble by Silva Henriquez, who called Pinochet, interrupting one of his official dinners, and requested that the siege be ended. The DINA agents left under Pinochet's orders, and Zamora was transported to a secure location where Silva Henriquez' personal doctor examined him. It was clear that Zamora had been burned all over his body with cigarettes.

The protection by church officials of Chileans wanted by the security forces was to provide the final breakdown of public relations between Silva Henriquez and Pinochet. In September, 1975, the military government prohibited the return (from a trip abroad) of the Lutheran Bishop Helmut Frenz,who was accused of employing Marxists within COPACHI. Further, on October 15,1975, the security forces found the house where part of the leadership of the MIR (Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionario), the most wanted left-wing organization, had been staying for the past few months. After a violent exchange between DINA agents and members of the MIR, Andres Pascal and Nelson Gutierrez, together with their partners sought refuge in parishes and convents. Finally, four of them were brought to foreign embassies in order to save their lives. One of them, Nelson Gutierrez, who had been wounded in a leg, was treated by a British doctor, Sheila Cassidy, who latter was arrested, tortured, and expelled from Chile.28

As a result, two Jesuits were arrested; several foreign missionaries were expelled from Chile; and Silva Henriquez was put under tremendous pressure by Pinochet to close COPACHI.29 he did so in December, 1975. However, as 1976 began Suva Henriquez founded a new organization in order to protect those who were suffering, the Vicariate of Solidarity (Vicaria de la Solidaridad).

IV. The Cardinal and the Vicaria de la Solidaridad

Suva Henriquez chose Father Cristian Precht as the leader of the new organization, which became part of the Archdiocese of Santiago and therefore under his direct leadership. As a result, the military government was not able to close the Vicaria, which was a pastoral office within a church that was legally separated from the Chilean state. This new organization was to foster the ideas proclaimed by the Santiago Archdiocese in july, 1975, that is, pastoral work of solidarity with all, particularly with those suffering (Pastoral de la Solidaridad). Thus, while COPACHI was an emergency solution to the social problems posed by the military coup, the Vicaria represented the values associated with the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, and therefore its main role was to educate Catholics in the values and the practice of solidarity for the future, while helping those suffering due to political circumstances.

The Vicaria was located beside the Santiago Cathedral, in the central square that had seen the foundation of the city, the Plaza de Armas number 444. Over the next few years, thousands of Chileans visited those offices in order to avail themselves of legal assistance programs, as well as to participate in the life of support groups, such as meetings of the relatives of the disappeared. Soon the Vicaria extended its programs in cooperation with Catholic parishes in order to provide programs of health, food, education, and social community projects.

Already in 1976 the Vicaria brought to the attention of the Santiago Courts 900 cases of people who had been arrested by the DINA and who subsequently disappeared. Precht had asked for a meeting with Pinochet, who scheduled such a meeting. However, the meeting was later cancelled after the Ecuadoran police arrested three Chilean bishops who were attending a bishops' meeting in Riobamba (Ecuador). On their return to Santiago, the bishops were physically attacked at the airport. Those who punched the bishops were later identified as DINA agents disguised as protesters.

The bishops decided to request a meeting with Pinochet, who invited them to lunch. At that lunch Pinochet received all the information and looked very relaxed. Later, however, the Chilean Ambassador to the Vatican, Hector Riesle, disclosed to Silva Henriquez that Pinochet had sent a complaint to the Vatican accusing the bishops of being offensive toward the police, the government, and the Chilean State in general. From that moment onwards, General Court was the one who continued relations between the Cardinal and Pinochet. Silva Henriquez in his memoirs recognized that sometimes he was terribly harsh with Court, requesting actions that Court was not able to get from the military government; however without him Pinochet could have never listened to the Cardinal's concerns.30

Those years of close work with the needy through the Vicaria were happy years for Silva Henriquez. The Vicaria was granted honors by international organizations including the United Nations, and the number of people taking part in the life of the Church increased. The Chilean Church was seen as an example of a church involved in the world, as it had been the mandate of the bishops and cardinals gathered at the sec ond Vatican Council (1962-1965). The youth, particularly, returned to the Church. For example, in October, 1976, the new major seminary for the formation of priests of the Santiago Archdiocese was inaugurated. That year fifty students for the priesthood joined the community in La Florida, and in 1977 another thirty students for the priesthood followed. Previously, for example in 1972, there were no new students for the priesthood in the Santiago Archdiocese. The same growth of participation was present in the Church's involvement with workers and their world. Because of all those initiatives the work of the Chilean Church became known all over the world, and Silva Henriquez was the recipient of international recognition. For example, in 1977 Silva Henriquez received honorary doctorates from the University of Panama, Williams College (Massachusetts), and Georgetown University (Washington, D. C.).31

During 1977, under pressure from the United States, Pinochet closed down the DINA and created another organization to deal with intelligence and security, the CNI. While in terms of political repression the two organizations were indeed similar, the closure of the DINA meant that most of the secret places for torture became unused and that the CNI operated a system of collaboration with the civil and uniformed police through police stations rather than isolated properties under their control. The number of disappeared decreased, and the CNI concentrated on the infiltration of trade unions and students Organizations.

During the following years Suva Henriquez continued his support through the Vicaria for those persecuted and had to deal with the first discoveries of bodies of the disappeared at Lonquen and at area 29 of the Santiago General Cemetery.32 The case of Lonquen was particularly difficult as the military authorities did not want a massive public funeral and did not return the bodies to their relatives. It was Suva Henriquez who gathered them at the Cathedral in order to pray for justice and for the eternal rest of the dead. During this period, the Ministry of the Interior acquired executive powers, and therefore meetings between the Cardinal and Pinochet became infrequent.33

On September 27,1982, Suva Henriquez became seventy-five years of age, and as customary in the Catholic Church when bishops reach that age he offered his resignation to the Pope. It was accepted. However,his successor, Bishop juan Francisco Fresno (Bishop of La Serena), was not announced till April, 1983. In the meantime he had to deal with the violent arrest and expulsion of three foreign missionaries and the assassination of Tucapel Jimenez, a trade unionist. Silva Henriquez publicly announced his retirement on the feast of St. Joseph the Worker (May 1) and left the management of the Santiago archdiocese to his episcopal vicars, juan de Castro and Jorge Hourton. he wrote, "The government declared publicly its relief for my retirement and for the name of my successor."34 However, a year later Cardinal Fresno was requesting the same respect for human rights in Chile as Silva Henriquez had requested.

By that time there were clear signs that different areas of Chilean society would be pushing for a full return to democracy. The Cardinal continued supporting that aim and provided the possibility for politicians, particularly those affiliated to the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), to meet at retreat centers and other places owned by the Catholic Church.35 The Vicaria continued its work till 1992, two years after the inauguration of President Patricio Aylwin and the end of military rule.

During his retirement Silva Henriquez gave his time to the young through some classes in schools and to children. Years before, he had managed to open a children's village for orphans at Punta de Tralca, on the coast, beside the retreat house owned by the Santiago Archdiocese. In his years of retirement he spent time with those children as well as with old friends. For his eightieth birthday a dinner was organized that he thought would include fifty people. In the end 1,200 guests attended.

V. Conclusions

When Silva Henriquez died in 1999 the Santiago streets and the Cathedral were full of people. During the Masses celebrated in the Cathedral he was remembered as the founder of the Vicaria,36 whose mention triggered an immediate vocal response by those taking part in the service: "Raul, amigo, el pueblo esta contigo"-"Raul, friend, the people are with you." Previously, when he was very ill in the hospital, even one of Pinochet's daughters went to visit him. Thus, as Silva Henriquez wrote in his memoirs:

I cannot ignore that many times I could have been a polemic figure. I have asked pardon for this many times, and I will do it again when necessary. I lived difficult times, and it would be unjust to suggest that I always knew that it would be like that. I had to watch, with anguish and impotence, how my country was going into a fratricidal confrontation and how it was open to division for long and painful years. I was a witness and a participant of events that perhaps I would not have liked to see, and my incapacity to prevent that those events could harm the weak, the lowly, and those without protection, made many of my nights painful.

I have not been a passive witness. I know.

I cannot feel sorry for this, because in each critical moment I felt the word of Christ, his own example of holocaust, the demands of his suffering.37

The contribution by Silva Henriquez to Chilean society was twofold: he managed to foster renewal within the Catholic Church, and in doing so he made it possible that a renewed Church would assume the political role of serving the persecuted during a political time in which every other organization was closed down.

In fact, I would argue, it was such ecclesial renewal that made possible a measured but appropriate response to a situation of extreme violence and systematic violation of human rights in Chile. Such renewal had already started in the 1960's when progressive bishops, such as Manuel Larrain, asked questions about workers' rights, land reform, education, wealth creation, and Chilean society in general.38 Most importantly the bishops asked questions about the Catholic Church herself, and they proceeded to create the structures of governance and education that allowed a traditional church (inward looking) to become a progressive church (outward looking).

Within such restructuring Silva Henriquez managed to incorporate auxiliary bishops; he created pastoral areas that could work their own policies in relation to the center; he increased the number of married deacons, pastoral agents, and catechetical resources, without isolating those structures from the realities of daily life within those areas. His critics accused him of not going far enough (e.g., those who wanted a popular Church or a Socialist state) or being too radical (traditional movements within the Church).

However, within the Catholic Church Silva Henriquez implemented the directives of Medellin (1968) and Puebla (1979) through his own example. Those directives, emanating out of the Latin American bishops' reflections on the reality they experienced in their own local churches, suggested that the poor and the marginalized were at the center of ecclesial life, because God himself had shown a preference for them.39

It is within such an ecclesial manifesto that Suva Henriquez engaged himself and those under his leadership with the Chilean military government. Within a country where the Catholic Church had enormous influence he used that influence to demand respect for everybody and for his own Church, also persecuted and vilified. Thus, it is not possible to fully understand Silva Henriquez without understanding the wider context of the universal Church, the local context of the Latin American Church, and Silva Henriquez' commitment to the Salesian Order. In fact, it is not possible to understand the period of the military government in Chile without understanding the role of the Catholic Church and that of Silva Henriquez within that period.

1 Mario I. Aguilar, Current Issues on Theology and Religion in Latin America and Africa (Lewiston, Queenston, and Lampeter, 2002), pp. 87-146; Hugo Cancino Troncoso, Chile: Iglesia y Dictadura 1973-1989: Un estudio sobre el roi politico de la Iglesia Catolicay el conflicto con el regimen militar (Odense, 1997); Miguel Jorda Sureda,Martirologio de la Iglesia Chilena:Juan Alsina y sacerdotes victimas del terrorismo de Estado (Santiago, 2001); Orlando Mella, Religion and Politics in Chile: An Analysis of Religious Models (Uppsala, 1987); and Brian H. Smith, The Church and Politics in Chile: Challenges to Modern Catholicism (Princeton, 1982).

3 Hugo Cancino Troncoso has pointed out that this hierarchical role was accentuated because of the military coup and its consequences, while the term "Church" includes all priests, religious, lay Catholics, Christian communities, and the spheres of media influence allocated to the Chilean Church (pp. cit., p. 2).

3 However, see Edward Crouzet, Blood on the Esmeralda: The Life and Death of Father Michael Woodward (Stratton-on-the-Fosse, 2002); julia Paley, Marketing Democracy: Power and Social Movements in Post-Dictatorship Chile (Berkeley, 2001); Maximiliane Salinas C.,Don EnriqueAlvear:El Obispo de lospobres (Santiago, 1991);and Patricia Verdugo, Andre de la Victoria (Santiago, 1985).

4 Gabriel Valdes Subercaseaux, "El Cardenal en las Naciones Unidas" (New York, December 11,1978).

5 Indeed, throughout his whole life Suva Henriquez showed an involved social thought arising from the conviction that the Church in order to be effective should be involved in any society's affairs and nourished that thought with a constant examination of the social doctrine of the Church. see, Academia de Humanisme Cristiano, Raul Cardenal Suva Henriquez, Aventura de unafe (Santiago, 1984); Luis Antonio Diaz.,El pensamiento social del Cardenal Suva Henriquez (Santiago, 1976); Miguel Ortega Riquelme, El Cardenal nos ha dicho (Santiago, 1982); Oscar Pinochet de la Barra, El Cardenal Suva Henriquez: Liichadorpar lajusticia (Santiago, 1987); and Francisco Reyes Alvarez, El Cardenal: La batalla del humanismo cristiano. Cronicas de un alegatopor la democracia (Santiago, 1999).

6 While the military government lasted from 1973 to 1990 it can be divided for methodological purposes in two periods: the one before the approval of the 1980 Chilean Constitution and the period after 1980. Before 1980 the security services perpetrated most of the kidnappings and forced disappearances and there was no sign of a possible return to democracy. In the period after 1980 the Church was involved in facilitating talks and civil dialogue in order to prepare a peaceful transition to democracy. During this period human rights violations related mostly to the governmental repression against protesters and political opponents that took place around the nationally organized protests for a quick return to democracy.

7 Cardenal Haul Suva Henriquez.Afemorto.ed.Ascanio Cavallo (3 vols.; Santiago, 1991, 1994).

8 Mario I. Aguilar, "El Muro de los Nombres de Villa Grimaldi (Chile): Exploraciones sobre la Memoria,el Silencio y IaVo/ de la Historia" European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, 69 (2000),81-88;"EvangeUoy Paz: A Dialogue between Church and State in 1970s Chile," The Month: Review of Christian Thought and World Affairs, 34 (2001), 103-107; and, "The Vicaria de la Solidaridad and the Pinochet Regime (19761980): Religion and Politics in 20th Century Chile," Iberoamericana: Nordic Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, 31 (2001), 101-115.

9"Estra ensenanza que comprend! en toda su dimension en el momento de ordenarme sacerdote, ha sido el autentico norte de mi labor pastoral," Silva Henriquez, op. cit., I, 72.

10Arriaran Barros was a liberal educator who already in 1887 had insisted that the SaIesians were to be invited to make a contribution to education in Chile. Arriaran, who died in 1907, had been impressed by Don Bosco's preoccupation for the marginalized, the poor, and the working classes. Thus, in 1929 his sister Carmen donated a large sum of money in memory of his educational ideals.

11 Suva Henriquez, op. cit., 1,142.

12 Ibid.,p. 193.

13 See "Anexo: Directivas de la Conferencia Episcopal de Chile entre los anos 19721981," in secretariado General de la Conferencia Episcopal de Chile, Documentas del Episcopado Chile 1974-1980 (Santiago, 1982),pp. 528-531; and Crouzet, op. cit.

14"Quiero decirle que la posicion de la Iglesia es de compromise con la tarea de Iiberacion de los pueblos latinoamericanos; ese es el gran empeno que se tiene, y que aparece mas notorio ultimamente desde el Concilio, Medellin, las enciclicas papales. Y por eso que la Iglesia tiene tambien que mirar con simpatia y compromise a todos los que se empenan en tareas semejantes," Silva Henriquez, op. cit., Il, 213-214.

15 Arzobispado de Santiago, Departamento de Opinion Publica, Declaracion,"Carta del Cardenal Raul Silva Henriquez y padre Gonzalo Arroyo fechada el 3 de marzo de 1972, en que aclara su posicion frente a los cristianos por el socialisme" (Santiago, july 8,1981); and, Fernando Castillo, "Christians for Socialism in Chile," Concilium, 105 (1977), 106-112.

16"Sentia en esos momentos, como quizas nunca antes en mi vida, el peso inmenso que haria recaer sobre la Iglesia una situation de la que no era responsible. Pense en la clureza de las circumstancias: despues de tantos ajetreos, al borde de mis 66 anos, cuando me creia ya cansado y viejo, el Senor nos enviaba la mas dura prueba: ¿no era agobiante?" Silva Henriquez, op. cit., II, 285.

17During 1972 and 1973 they held the following elected offices within the Chilean Bishops' Conference Permanent Committee: Cardinal Silva Henriquez (president), Jose Manuel Santos (Archbishop of Conception, member), Sergio Contreras (Bishop of Ancud, member of the pastoral commission).

18See full text in Silva Henriquez, op. cit., II, 285-286.

19 Full texts of Silva Henriquez' Te Deum homilies are available in Ascanio Cavallo,Zox Te Deum del Cardenal Silva Henriquez en el regimen mttitar (Santiago, 1988).

20 Cavallo, op. cz'f.,pp. 15-16.

21 Silva Henriquez, op. cit., U, 292.

22 Pinochet's government tried, with some degree of success, to decentralize the political decisions by moving the Chilean Congress to Valparaiso. Regardless of its location, most Congress members still live in Santiago and they commute to Valparaiso for the ordinary sessions of the Chilean Congress.

25 Adolfo Co77i,Estadio National (Santiago, 2000).

24 Mario I. Aguilar, "Charles Horman et alii vs. Henry Kissinger: U.S. Intervention in 1970s Chile and the case for the Prosecution," in Adam Jones (ed.), Genocide, War Crimes and the West: Ending the Culture of Impunity (London, forthcoming).

25 Silva Henriquez, op. cit.,11,294.

2 Their biographies are available in Mario I. Aguilar, Current Issues, pp. 119-137,140142; and Miguel Jorda Sureda, op. cit.

27 Silva Henriquez, op. cit., Ill, 15.

28 Her autobiography was published as Sheila Cassidy, Audacity to Believe (London, 1978).

290 Carta del general Pinochet al Cardenal Suva Henriquez solicitandole Ia disolucion del Comite de Cooperacion para la Paz en Chile" (Santiago, 1975), Archivos de la Vicaria de la Solidaridad CAVS-) CD: 01068.00.

30 Silva Henriquez, op. cit., III, 101.

31 "Distincion Doctor Honoris Causa en Teologia al Cardenal RaUl Suva Henriquez, YaIe," AVS CD: 01075.00.

52 Nancy J. Guzman, Un Grito desde el Silencio: Detention, asesinato y desaparicion de Bautista van Schouwen y Patricia Munita (Santiago, 1998); and Maximo Pacheco, Lonquen (Santiago, 1980).

33 Entrevista concedida por el Cardenal Arzobispo de Santiago a Radio Chilena" (Santiago, july 3,1978).

34 Suva Henriquez,op. cit.,III,26l.

35 Vicaria rindio homenaje a su fundador" and "Los 80 anos de don Raiil," Sottdaridad: Boletin de la Vicaria de la Solidaridad 254 (Santiago, October 9,1987),pp. 22-23.

36 Arzobispado de Santiago, "Homilia en la Eucaristia de Funerales del Cardenal Raul Suva Henriquez" (Santiago, April 12, 1999), and Refleccion y Liberation, "Homilia en el primer aniversario de la muerte del Cardenal Silva Henriquez" (Santiago, 2000).

37 Ibid., p. 277.

38 Bishop Manuel Larrain had been one of the founders of the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM) in 1955. Larrain had also been involved in the efforts by the Holy see to increase pastoral co-operation between bishops in the United States, Canada, and Latin America. see James F. Garneau, "The First Inter-American Episcopal Conference, November 2-4, 1959: Canada and the United States Called to the Rescue of Latin America," Catholic Historical Review, LXXXVII (2001), 662-687.

39 Raul Cardenal Suva Henriquez, "Jesucristo ha sido mi jnspiracion," Solidaridad: Boletin de la Vicaria de la Solidaridad 254 (Santiago, October 9,1987), p. 24.

[Author Affiliation]


[Author Affiliation]

*Dr. Aguilar is Dean of Divinity in the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. he presented this paper at the Third European Congress of Latin Americanists, Amsterdam, july 3-6, 2002. Archival research for this paper was carried out in Santiago, Chile, during visits in 1999 and 2000. The author acknowledges the assistance of staff at the Fundacion Archivos de la Vicaria de la Solidaridad (Santiago Archdiocese) and at the Fundacion Cardenal Suva Henriauez.

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