Luis Urzua Iribarren, 54, was shift leader at time of the collapse in the San Jose Mine in Atacama. He was the last to reach the surface during the rescue effort that began on Oct. 11, 2010, and ended two days later.
The Chilean miner traveled to Rome to attend the opening Mass of the Year of Faith and to thank Pope Benedict XVI for his prayers and support during the ordeal that lasted 70 days.
In an interview with CNA, Urzua said that without the help of their Catholic faith, “we would not have survived that harsh trial.”
“I made this visit to thank the Pope for his care, for being an ambassador of faith to the entire world, which is most important,” he said. “The Holy Father has asked us, and we must all do our part.”
During the Mass, Urzua and other workers from around the world received a copy of the documents of the Second Vatican Council from the pontiff. In return, he gave the Pope a letter and a photo signed by each of the 33 miners.
The group was trapped underground after a collapse occurred in the mine on Aug. 5, 2010. Thanks to the meticulous efforts of rescue workers, they were taken out one at a time Oct. 11 and 12 through a special capsule which brought them to the surface from a depth of more than 600 meters.
At the time, Benedict XVI encouraged them to remain calm as the rescue effort progressed, and he invited them to embrace the word of Christ to grow in faith.
He also sent the trapped miners 33 blessed rosaries to encourage them to pray to Our Lady of the Candelabra and to St. Lawrence, the patron of miners.
Urzua recalled that more than 1 billion people worldwide followed the rescue but said he wants to help rescue the world by encouraging all to live the Year of Faith.
“We need to bear witness to the marvels of God, to how we were rescued, especially during these times in which faith is scarce and needs to be revived with our hearts and souls,” he said.
On the second anniversary of the historic rescue of 33 workers from a mine in Chile, the group's leader attended a Mass opening the Year of Faith at the Vatican on Oct.11, thanking Pope Benedict for his prayers.
Year of Faith, Church in Chile