Pope Francis marks 500th anniversary of first Mass in Chile

30746651353 0761bca226 k Pope Francis, pictured July 27, 2016. | Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.

Pope Francis urged Catholics in Chile Monday to renew their gratitude for the gift of the Eucharist in a letter marking the 500th anniversary of the country's first Mass. 

The pope noted in a Nov. 9 letter that Chileans could not observe the anniversary with large-scale events because of coronavirus restrictions. 

"However, even in the midst of this limitation, there is no obstacle that can silence the gratitude that flows from the heart of all of you, sons and daughters of the Church on pilgrimage in Chile, who with faith and love renew their commitment to the Lord, in the sure hope that He will continue to accompany their journey in the course of history," he wrote.

"I encourage you to live the celebration of the Eucharistic Mystery, which unites us to Jesus, in a spirit of adoration and thanksgiving to the Lord, because it is for us the principle of new life and unity, which impels us to grow in fraternal service to the most poor and disinherited of our society."

The pope addressed the letter to Bishop Bernardo Bastres Florence of Punta Arenas, Chile's southernmost Catholic diocese, where the first Mass took place. 

Vatican News reported that Bishop Bastres read out the letter at a Nov. 8 Mass marking the 500th anniversary.

Fr. Pedro de Valderrama, chaplain to Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, celebrated the first Mass on Nov. 11, 1520, in Fortescue Bay on the shores of the Strait of Magellan.

Pope Francis said that the 500th anniversary was a momentous event not only for Puntas Arenas diocese, but also for the whole Chilean Church. 

Quoting from "Sacrosanctum concilium," the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, he said: "It is above all from the Eucharist, as the Second Vatican Council reminds us, that 'grace is poured forth upon us; and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God ... is achieved in the most efficacious possible way.'"

"For this reason, in this fifth centenary we can rightly say, as the motto of the Diocese of Punta Arenas states, that 'God entered from the South,' because that first Mass celebrated with faith, in the simplicity of an expedition in a territory then unknown, gave birth to the Church on pilgrimage in that beloved nation."

The pope observed that Chileans had prepared intensively for the anniversary. Official celebrations began two years ago with a Eucharistic procession in the city of Punta Arenas.

"I accompany you with remembrance in prayer, and as I invoke the protection of the Mother of God upon the beloved Church in Chile, I impart to you from my heart the Apostolic Blessing," he wrote.

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