CHILE'S bishops issued a strong affirmation on January 19 of their intention to continue speaking out in favour of national reconciliation despite criticism from their government.
Following a meeting of the episcopate's permanent committee, the bishops announced that "for the love of Chile, we will not be silent; for the love of the Chilean people, we will not rest". They stressed the urgency of healing the deep social divisions in Chile.
"We see our country lamentably and dangerously divided. We see events occurring at an accelerating rate. We feel the urgency to invite Chileans to dialogue, to co-existence, to consensus."
The military government of General Augusto Pinochet which has been in power since 1973 has rejected a national agreement for transition to full democracy, drawn up by most of the opposition parties under the auspices of Cardinal Juan Francisco Fresno, Archbishop of Santiago.
The bishops noted their perception of the rejection as destructive, and as closing down the only peaceful road to change in their country.
The dramatic tone of the bishops' statement caused some surprise in Chile. "The whole country is conscious of the gravity of the hour in which we are living" wrote the bishops "We must not fool ourselves about the danger", they continued.