On Wednesday, the president of Chile, Sebastian Pinera, extended an official invitation to Pope Benedict XVI to visit the South American country. According to Chilean media, the papal trip would occur in 2012.
In a meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone on Wednesday, the Chilean president formally invited Pope Benedict to the country, which has been rebuilding since it was rattled by an 8.8 earthquake in February.
“We have invited the Holy Father through the Vatican Secretary of State - when God wills and he can - to visit our country,” the president said.
He then thanked Cardinal Bertone for the Pope’s concern over Chile’s reconstruction, which the two discussed, especially the need to make the country “spiritually stronger,” reinforcing Christian values. For his part, Cardinal Bertone said, “I told the president that the Holy Father is pleased by the courageous acts of unity that all sectors of Chilean society have made in order to overcome the grave consequences of the earthquake.”
He also praised officials for their response to the disaster and reiterated the Church’s willingness to help communities materially and spiritually through the Caritas network.
After thanking the government for its concern for the numerous churches that were damaged by the quake, Cardinal Bertone noted that one of the missions of his visit was to bring a statue of Our Lady of Carmel, which the Pope blessed and sent as a gift to the country.
He also expressed confidence that the generosity of the Chilean people would make it possible the country to rebuild. The upcoming bicentennial “will undoubtedly be an opportunity to emphasize the fundamental values of the country and its people, that which is most identifies Chileans, what Cardinal Raul Silva Henriquez called, ‘the soul of Chile’,” Cardinal Bertone said.