Bishop Gonzalo Duarte Garcia of Valparaiso expressed his sorrow this week over the killing of five year-old Francisca Silva but warned that the death penalty many people are calling for is not an answer to the horror of such a crime. Instead, he called for reflection on the kind of society that is being formed in the country.
“The tragic death of Francisca Silvia and everything related to her wake and funeral has been the most painful thing I have experienced in my 42 years as a priest. As never before I have felt the powerlessness of the human being in the face of extreme moral pain and the impossibility of speaking words of comfort,” the bishop said, recalling the Mass for Francisca, a girl who as kidnapped, raped and murdered by her neighbor.
Bishop Duarte Garcia said he understood those who were calling for the death penalty for the assailant. The outcry is “a spontaneous expression of sorrow and a cry for justice, because unfortunately, public opinion, and particularly the world of the poor, feels that justice is not being done in Chile.”
However, although he said he was “harshly criticized” for his position, Bishop Duarte Garcia stressed that the death penalty is not the solution to the horror of such crimes. “Chilean society, through its leaders who represent it and have been elected by it, took an important humane step in prohibiting the death penalty,” he said.
The Chilean prelate said the courts must be allowed to do their job, he emphasized.
Chileans must reflect on “the kind of family we are building, the kind of society we are building, the kind of Church we are building,” he said. “How long will we allow the fights, the verbal violence, the slandering to continue?” he asked. “Now the time has come to dedicate ourselves to the noble task of giving our children and young people a beautiful world, a better world, a world more just and of greater solidarity.” he urged.
Bishop Duarte Garcia said, “No human words are capable of consoling” those who have lost a daughter, but it is then that “we must hold fast to the Word of God, which alone can give meaning to our lives.”