Social History of the Catholic Church in Chile Volume III

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This book describes and interprets the historiography of bishops, priests, religious, Christian communities and lay people in Chile during the years 1980-1990 by the use of ecclesiastical primary sources, secondary sources and oral testimonies. In 1973, Augusto Pinochet led a military coup that had enormous repercussions for the history of Chile and for the pastoral actions of the Catholic Church led by Cardinal Silva Henríquez. This book examines the historiography of the period in which the Church and Chilean civic society pushed for a return to democracy; it explores the relations of the Pinochet government with Cardinals Silva Henríquez and Fresno, as well as the approval of the 1980 Chilean Constitution, the attempt on Pinochet’s life, John Paul II’s visit to Chile and the referendum of 1988 that finally led to free democratic elections in Chile during 1989. The author has used a significantly large number of unpublished and unknown primary historical sources that make this volume the most significant historical work in English for the history of the Chilean Church from the new Chilean Constitution in 1980 to the return to democracy in 1990.


“This volume narrates the social involvement of the church hierarchy, of priests involved in working class neighbourhoods and of religious and lay people involved in that slow process of democratic reconstruction of a Chilean civil society. That slow process of ecclesial involvement made possible the reconstruction of the Chilean political parties and finally delivered a peaceful transition to democracy, without the violence experienced by other Latin American countries ... In this volume, as well as in the previous two, the author shows his multidisciplinary method through an interdisciplinary narrative and critical analysis, applying seminal concepts of oral history, social anthropology and political science. Throughout this narrative institutional, collective and individual actors are shown in their social action and their narratives. The sources used are vast, including primary sources, journals, magazines and newspapers, interviews and memoirs, backed by a very impressive bibliography, almost totally comprehensive. I have no doubt that this volume will become the standard and definitive work to understand the role of the Church in building the foundations for a peaceful transition to democracy in Chile.” – (from the Preface) Professor Dr. Hugo Cancino, Aalborg University, Denmark

“This book is the result of painstaking archival research and an enormous knowledge of recent Chilean history. It demonstrates in fluent and at times gripping prose the difficult and complex situation of the Catholic Church facing the ruthless dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet ... At the same time, it highlights the courageous posture of many individual men and women who under extremely difficult circumstances tried to save what was left of respect for human dignity. The book shows the individual efforts to cope with an extremely complex and dangerous political situation, without losing out of sight the general scope of events. In this way, it presents an eminently humanist vision of this historical period.” – Prof. Dr. Michiel Baud, Director of Latin American Research and Documentation (CEDLA) and Professor of Latin American Studies, University of Amsterdam

“ ... Volume 3 of A Social History of the Church in Chile represents an enormous contribution to the field of Latin American studies, with emphasis on the complex intersections of the Catholic Church, politics, and human rights. In this volume, Dr. Mario Aguilar addresses the 1980s, an underanalyzed period of the Church’s work in Chile, a decade encompassing the height of Chile’s institutionalized dictatorship through its eventual demise, passing through a backdrop of economic crisis, national protests, the papal visit and the 1988 plebiscite. Dr. Aguilar’s riveting analysis situates the progressive Church as a key social actor in this context, negotiating the often-competing demands of the Pinochet regime, the Vatican, the post-Vatican II ‘people’s church,’ and the labor and other grassroots movements for democracy ...” – Professor Alice Nelson, The Evergreen State College

Table of Contents

Preface by Hugo Cancino
1. The Year of the New Constitution
2. The Year of Pinochet (1981)
3. The Year of Despair (1982)
4. A Cycle of Protests (1983)
5. Towards Democratic Conversations (1984)
6. The Cleansing of the Opposition (1985)
7. Pinochet Under Fire (1986)
8. The Pope’s Visit and Beyond (1987-1989)

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