to Chile at a price
"What will you have to say about Chile when you return home?", said a Chilean friend when I visited him last month.
"What would you have me say?". I replied.
"Well, to begin with," he said, "we have peace and order and security instead of the turmoil and chaos of the Allende years. Our property is safe. Our prices are world prices, realistic. There are no shortages any more; you can buy whatever you want in the shops. We have developed our export trade in all sorts of new ways. There is respect for authority. It is true, there have been and still are hardships but these are necessary to correct the crazy economy of the Marxist Government of Allende".
I had to agree at once about the prices; they are if anything higher than one finds in Europe. But to my question about the relationship between prices and wages he had to reply that there is a wide gap indeed between the earnings of a Chilean worker and his European peer. The minimum wage is about 75 pence a day. This is not surprising when one considers that for more than five years after the coup d'etat of September 1 I, 1973 which brought the military government to power there was a total ban on Trade Union activities. Meetings were forbidden without the permission of the local army commander, they could not elect officers or bargain colectively ot take strike action. More recently they are allowed to have meetings and elections but all candidates who had held office previously or had been active in politics were barred.
Unemployment in the capital of Santiago, where nearly 40 per cent of the population lives, is 13 per cent. In Arica near the border with Peru it is 20 per cent and in the country towns 16 or 17 per cent. A great many are under-employed. There is a scheme for the unemployed called "empleo minimo" which absorbs about 140,000 men and women. These work from 8 am to 4 pm cleaning streets and parks or municipal buildings, schools etc. and for this they are paid about £6 a week. They do not qualify for any social benefits. One of the harshest measures has been the termination of medical benefits for the poor, including medicines, Those on "empleo minimo" are not counted as unemployed for statistical purposes. My friend complained that despite this situation he and his wife could not get domestic help.
The hardships endured by the unemployed and the poor are among the gravest concerns of the Church in Chile and the unequal burdens they have to bear because of the Government's plans to correct the economy are the object of its insistent criticisms. One result of the plan has been the high incidence of malnutrition in children. Some sectors, especially those in the building trade, have had a particularly bad time. Nobody quite knows how they survive. The 280 food centres ("comedores
infantiles") run by the Church for children aged 2 to 6, in all about 280,000, have been phased out to about 20 per cent of what they were two or three years ago because less children are now coming. Nobody could explain why this is so except to say that in summer there are always fewer children. A social worker told me that those who have work can get by while the lot of the unemployed is worse than it used to be.
Likewise the Vicariate of Solidarity, set up as a department of the archdiocese by Cardinal Silva after the Inter-Church Peace Committee had been dissolved under pressure from General Pinochet, has been able to reduce its activities at least to some extent. The Vicariate provides legal aid for the victime of State repression, bringing habeas corpus motions before the Courts on behalf of persons arrested by the sec, et police, Providing work or support for their families. running food centres, publicising cases of injustice or progress in any of these areas in its fortnightly bulletin "Solidaridad".
By far the most newsworthy activity of the Vicariate and indeed that most often criticised in the government-controlled press has been its, championing of the cause of the people who have disappeared in the hands of the secret police. These are estimated at some 1,500 but the Vicariate has been able to document only 615 cases fully. These were arrested in the presence of witnesses and never heard of again. The Government disclaims all knowledge of them and this is accepted as sufficient by the Courts.
The families of these men and women, like the Church, have been accused in the press of being
"anti-patriotic", of "playing politics", being "the stooges of communism" etc.
In recent months this matter has assumed dramatic proportions following the discovery of two clandestine cemeteries, one a disused lime kiln at Lonquen and the other at a mountain pass between Santiago and Valparaiso.
The Government's first reaction was that these persons had been killed in battles with the army in the first weeks after the coup d'etat. However it transpired that some of the corpses had their hands tied behind their backs with wire and some were blindfolded. Five have so far been identified as the bodies of a man named Maureira and his four sons, all of whom were arrested by uniformed police in October, 1973.
Some one who knew of the graves revealed the fact to a priest who informed the auxiliary Bishop of Santiago, Mgr Enrique Alvear. The Bishop verified what he had been told by visiting Lonquen with a lawyer, a journalist and a photographer. He then brought the matter to the notice of the Supreme Court which has appointed a judge to investigate. Partial results have been published and the investigation is still going on. In the light of indisputable facts the Government has kept silence but there can be few who will now believe its former protestations or have any doubts about the fate of the other 610 persons.
It is pertinent to recall there the declaration of the Permanent Committee of the Chilean Episcopate: "The possibility that our actions may be interpreted or used for purposes foreign to the mission of the Church cannot prevent us from continuing until this very legitimate inquiry is satisfactorily answered". (June 6, 1978). Criticisms of the role of the Church in the stormy years of President Allende's administration (1970-73) and in the period since General Pinochet took over the country have often been unsympathetic and sometimes sharp and bitter.
One such outburst of journalistic indignation followed the International Symposium on Human Rights which was organi3ed by the archdiocese of Santiago in November 1978. That it could have been held at all is a measure of the freedom of speech and action which exists for the Church at least. One must attribute this to the wiser counsels which now prevail in the military Junta, to the process of "pacification" which has gradually eliminated opposition over the past 51 years and above all, I believe, to world opinion. General Pinochet is quite secure in the seat of power and he knows it. He has learned a great deal since September 1973; he is less strident and more aware of his international image.
Mass will be said on the spot where Our Lady appeared to a swineherd 1,200 years ago, as the climax of the Birmingham Diocesan Pilgrimage to Evesham on June 10, at which the emphasis will be on family life.
The Gilbert and Sullivan opera "Trial by Jury" will be performed by the Bristol Catholic Players at the Newman Hall, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol. for a fortnight from Monday A study day at the Franciscan Study Centre, University of Kent, Giles Lane,Canterbury on Sunday will consider the Apostolaste of the Laity to prepare for the National Pastoral Congress.
Three senior parishioners of St Aloysius Church, London, NWI, were given Bene Merenti medals by Bishop Guazzelli on May 15. They were Miss Mary McCarthy, Mr Charles Jones and Mr Francis Kenny.
The Catholic Police Guild retreat this year at Maryvale Pastoral Centre, Bramley, Guildford, Surrey on June 22 and 23 will have for its theme "Police and the Caring Church".
Brighton and Hove social workers are having a "Children's Rights Day" for group discussion on May 26 as part of the international Year of the Child.
Pax Christi, the international Catholic movement for peace, is holding a congress called "Swords into Ploughshares: Practical Paths to Peace" at Westminster Cathedral Conference Centre, London, SWI, from November 2 to 4.
"A Day with the Lord" is the title of a day of prayer to be given by Fr James Brand at Manor House Convent, East End Road, London, N3, on Sunday. The retreat, from 10.35 am to 5.45 pm including Mass, is open to all and free of charge. A packed lunch should be brought. The bi-annual meeting of St Joan's International Alliance took place last month for the first time in 67 years in the United States, The International PresIdency passed to Helen Stewart, formerly British President.
A performance of "Perchance to Dreamwas saved by Sister Margaret, head of St Catherine's Girls' Grammar School, Twickenham, Surrey, when she offered the use of the school's new hall to replace the public hall where vote-counting was under way on election night.
A local group of the Catholic Widows' Association has been formed in St George's parish, Norwich, It had its first meeting on May 8, The cartoon character Rupert Bear is among the guests at Longleat's "Teddy Bear Rally" on May 27 at which Dr Barnard() s will have a reception tent for spare bears.
A course to help people deepen their faith and build community called "Getting Through Workshop" is to be held at the Cherwell Conference Centre, Oxford, from June 18 to 22.
This year's main charity for the fund-raising of St Mary's Teacher Training College, Twickenham, is the Parkinson's Disea_se Society. The charity ball will be on June 16. June 18 to 23 is National Childminding Week, with the theme "Childminders do Mind!", organised as part of the Year of the Child by the National Childminding Association.
A conference on the management of schools at the Westminster Religious Education Centre, Kensington Square, London, W8, today will include talks on the role of teacher and the law on education.
The Benedictines of Cockfosters have had to repeal their Monastic Weekend for those considering the monastic life, as the last was packed out. The weekend is at the Priory of Our Lady Queen of Peace, London, N14 from May 25 to 27.
Businesses and the Churches in Wetherby, West Yorkshire, are holding a Work Week, starting next Monday, designed to get people to consider their attitudes to work and its part in their lives.
The Third World Action Group held a day-school at the University of London Union last Saturday to discuss "The Case for Development Education in Britain", racism and the National Union of Students' The Catholic Women's League will he responsible for the Westminster Cathedral Flower Festival from July 12 to 15.
Money which children from
Arundel and Brighton diocese collected in Lent for the Diocesan Children's Society was blessed by Bishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor at a special Good Shepherd Mass at Arundel Cathedral on May 10.
Alcoholism is the subject of' a summer school to be run by the Federation of Alcoholic Rehabilitation Establishments from August I I to 17 at the University of York for those who have to deal with the problem at work.
Nearly 1,000 people took part in the Catholic Women's League annual pilgrimage to Walsingham on May 13, when Bishop McCartie, Auxiliary of Birmingham, led a silent procession to the Slipper Chapel.
A first prize of £1,000 is offered in the draw at the summer fete in the grounds of Our Lady of Peace, East
Sheen, West London, on June 30.
Last week St Joseph's Church, Elm Grove, Brighton, was dedicated by the Bishop of Arundel & Brighton, Cormac Murphy-O'Connor; it also celebrated its Centenary. Pictured above are some of the congregation.
The first Mission at St Joseph's dates from 1866. Than Mass was said in the house of a parishioner living In Elm Grove. A chapel was later added to the house but soon proved inadequate and a new chapel was built and opened in 1869.
The building of a new church was hastened by a fatal accident suffered by a parishioner, Mr Matthew Haddock. Driving in his chaise one day his horse took fright and bolted. During his short illness Mr Haddock was attended by the Rector of St Joseph's, Father Nicholas Broder, and in gratitude for this attention, he expressed a wish to do something for the Parish. When he died some two weeks later Mrs Haddock honoured his wish and donated £10,000 for the building of a "large, stone and elaborately built church."
The new church — without side aisles, transepts or apse — was opened on May 8, 1879. It was completed in 1906 by which time the cost had risen to £15,000. St Joseph's became a Perish in 1931 its first incumbent being Father Francis Freeland.
The present Parish Priest Is Father David Rea who was appointed in 1975. Since then, it is largely due to his efforts that renovations and decorations costing a further £45,000 have been able to be carried out providing the magnificent cathedral-like church. Some sixty priests were present at the dedication and Centenary mass and the importance of the occasion was marked by the presence of the Mayor of Brighton, Coun. Feld and Mrs Feld; local leaders of other denominations together with the MP Andrew Bowden.
At the conclusion of the ceremonies, Bishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor presented the Bens Merenti medal to two parishioners — Pat Cheesman, parish M.C. and Ted Lane, Choirmaster.