The tension remains high in Chile, where even after the end of the state of emergency, peaceful demonstrations, as well as acts of violence, continued even during the festive weekend. In Santiago, a new demonstration, preceded by a thousand women dressed in mourning, took place on Friday. There were reports of arbitrary arrests and repression, while the opposition is calling for a change in the Constitution and the resignation of President Sebastián Piñera. In the first case, some first steps have been taken at parliamentary level, while the President, in an interview with the BBC, ruled out the possibility that he would resign. The country is expecting a long and thorough dialogue process, true change and reconciliation. For Msgr. Fernando Chomali, Archbishop of Concepción, this is what is needed in Chile. In a letter to parish priests, he requested to initiate genuine dialogue initiatives along with in-depth analyses of the social conditions in each community of the archdiocese.
Bishop Chomali, what is your opinion of what has been happening in Chile?
The truth is that we are experiencing at the public level the expression of what many Chileans are experiencing, and this is a problem that affects fundamental sectors such as health, education, housing and work. While Chile is known to be a high-income economy, it is not reflected in the lives of many people. This shows that the economic model of the country needs to be re-examined. It requires more ethics than technique, more attention to people than to things.
In the meantime, the president has cancelled the Asia-Pacific and Cop25 climate summits, two highly anticipated events in Santiago. Was it a fair decision, in your opinion?
It was a political decision which falls outside my sphere of competence.
However, I believe that the real urgency for the country today is to create a platform for dialogue, open to all, to reconsider our way of life, with respect for everyone.
Summits can be useful if they contribute to policies for greater justice and fairness, but the real point is the need to overcome a liberal policy that is proving unsuccessful.
You have previously stated that the current crisis that Chile is going through is primarily of an ethical nature, more than an economic and political one. Do you confirm this view?
That’s right. Ours is a moral crisis because the individual, the person, is now being put on the sidelines. We must come to realize that the common good is not the sum of many individual goods, otherwise greed and selfishness will prevail. We must strongly reject the globalization of indifference so often denounced by Pope Francis. This situation also concerns our country. We are called to conversion and this is, in fact, an ethical attitude. But there is a second reason why this crisis calls moral responsibility into question…
What is it?
Everybody has a moral responsibility because the crisis affects us all. Certainly,
this is a question for politicians, but also for those involved in the economy, entrepreneurs.
And also, allow me to say, the Church herself, that is recovering from a serious moral crisis and is called to find new words.
In fact, in opinion polls Church popularity is very low, in this ranking only politicians have a worse rating…
As known, this is the result of the child abuse scandals that have been uncovered. I would also like to say, however, that in daily life our Church is deeply committed towards the poorest. It is widely acknowledged that in many cases the poor, the children who live in poverty, the elderly, would be left to care for themselves. There have been shadows in the work of the Church, but there has also been a great commitment.
You have written to all parish priests, asking for spaces and opportunities for listening and dialogue on the situation in the country, involving as many people as possible. Can you explain the aims of this choice?
While the parish certainly operates in a pastoral context, it is not isolated from social dynamics; on the contrary, for the Church this separation is a temptation that must be overcome. At ecclesial level, Church Social Doctrine is the key to interpreting these issues.
Will widespread meetings such as these be useful for empowering civil society and creating new Christian-inspired political figures?
We hope so, since Catholics involved in politics here in Chile have lost their way (the reference is to the recent vicissitudes of the Christian Democrats, ed.’s note). In fact they have caused damage by allowing the legalization of abortion and the destruction of the family.