Chile to celebrate ‘churchless’ Holy Week after earthquake

.- Numerous bishops in Chile are reporting on the amount of damage that many of the churches in the country are facing following the February 27 earthquake. Nearly 90 percent of Chile’s churches have been damaged or destroyed, including many historic national monuments.

Gustavo Villavicencio, who writes for “El Mercurio,” reported that “the nuns of the first Monastery of the Visitation still do not know if they will continue to be the spiritual lung of Santiago.”  He noted that “their future is uncertain," and "concrete solutions" have yet to be found.

“Along with this monastery is a long list of other churches in the capital that have been damaged, including the Basilicas of Our Lady of Lourdes, Sacred Heart of Mary, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help.”

Bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez Errazuriz of San Bernardo reported that among the churches impacted by the quake in his city is “the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Maipo, built in 1850.”

Bishop Cristian Contreras Molina of San Felipe said the list of damaged churches in his region is long and includes the “old Carmelite Monastery and the hundred year-old Church of Putaendo,” which the pastor, Father Francisco Valenzuela said, was left in ruins.

In the Diocese of Rancagua, numerous churches were completely destroyed, including the Jesuit-run Church of St. Anthony of Padua, the Church of St. John the Evangelist and the Church of St. Rose of Pelequen, where the bell tower and steeple fell onto the roof and the entire building collapsed.  “We need around $16 million to begin the work of reconstruction,” said the pastor, Father Jose Miguel Ortiz.

Bishop Tomislav Koljatic Maroevic of Linares said in his diocese, 16 of the 33 churches were reduced to rubble, four of which were national monuments. Those destroyed include the Church of St. Joseph, built in 1833; and the Church of St. Ambrose, where thousands of the faithful gather each year on February 2 to celebrate the Feast of the Presentation.

“The Cathedral of Linares, which contains the largest mosaic in all of Chile, created by Gulio di Girolamo, was also severely damaged,” the bishop said.  He also reported that the Church of St. Francis in Chillan was also destroyed, together with its Museum of St. Francis, which contained significant historical and religious artifacts dating back to the 18th century.

The bishop then noted that the convent of the Carmelite Fathers was also damaged, as well as the Church of the Dominican Fathers and the Church of St. John of God in Chillan, which is a national monument.


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