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The 8.8-magnitude earthquake that rattled Chile has taken a significant toll on Church infrastructure, according to a bishop in the capital.
BY ALEJANDRO BERMÚDEZLATIN AMERICA CORRESPONDENT
Chile — The 8.8-magnitude earthquake that rattled central and southern Chile
early Feb. 27 has taken a significant toll on Church infrastructure, according
to Bishop Fernando Chomalí.
to the Register, Bishop Chomalí, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of
Santiago, the capital, said the Church “is committed to helping those most in
need, especially the ones who have lost everything.”
bishop remarked, however, that the Church will also need assistance in
rebuilding significant structures damaged by the quake.
area most affected by the earthquake is the south-central part of the South
American country, the region that includes Santiago, Talca, Concepción,
Talcahuano and Constitución. The temblor killed more than 700 people. A relief
effort has been undertaken by the Church in conjunction with Caritas Chile,
Fides news agency reported.
Santiago, at least 70% of the churches and Catholic cemeteries were damaged,
some beyond repair.
chapel of the Monastery of the Visitation, a 200-year-old convent in Santiago,
was so severely impacted that the superior of the congregation announced it
will have to be permanently closed.
severely damaged buildings include the historic monastery chapel of the
contemplative Congregation of the Perpetual Adoration, the Basilica of El
Salvador and the Basilica of National Thanksgiving, as well as the
churches of San Isidro Labrador and Divine Providence, all located in downtown
In the Diocese of San Bernardo,
located south of Santiago, Bishop Juan Ignacio González reported that “thanks
be to God the Catholic hospital suffered no damage and is working at full
Nevertheless, at least seven parish
churches were severely affected, “some of which will not be able to reopen and
may have to be torn down.”
The apostolic nuncio in Chile,
Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, praised the Chilean bishops for “their speed and
effectiveness” in responding to the needs of those impacted by the quake, which
so far has left nearly 1 million homeless, mostly in the southern regions of
Concepción, Temuco and Curicó.
Archbishop Pinto also confirmed that
the Church will need support in rebuilding many of the churches, as it begins
to assess the damage.
“The information is still very
sketchy because full communication has not been re-established.” However, he
noted, what he has been able to see in Santiago is “heartbreaking.”
significant churches, one or two centuries old, have been destroyed or
Finally, he applauded bishops,
priests and religious for reaching out to people in need: “Chileans are a very
devout people, especially those in the countryside. The presence of the Church
brings them a great deal of hope in the
midst of their suffering.”
Alejandro Bermúdez is editor in chief of ACI Prensa
in Lima, Peru, and Catholic News Agency in Denver.