Catholic Church in Chile

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Cuasimodo Feast

The Catholic Church in Chile is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope, the curia in Rome, and the Episcopal Conference of Chile. There are 5 archdioceses, 18 dioceses, 2 territorial prelatures, 1 apostolic vicariate, 1 military ordinariate and a personal prelature (Opus Dei). The government observes the following Catholic Holy Days as national holidays (if on a week day): Good Friday, Christmas, Feast of the Virgin of Carmen, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Feast of the Assumption, and All Saints Day.

As of 2012, 66.6%[1] of Chilean population over 15 years of age claims to be of Catholic creed – a decrease from the 70%[2] reported by the 2002 census.


Catholicism was introduced by Dominican and Franciscan friars who accompanied the Spanish colonialists in the 16th century. The first parish was established in 1547 and the first diocese in 1561. Most of the native population in the northern and central regions was evangelized by 1650. The southern area proved more difficult. Church activity was hindered during the campaign for independence (1810–18) and in the first years of the new government. In the 20th century, further success was impeded by a shortage of clergy and government attempts to control Church administration. Separation of Church and state was defined by a new constitution in 1925. Relations between Church and state were strained during the Socialist presidency of Salvador Allende (November 1970 − September 1973) and under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. During the Pinochet regime, while some Catholic bishops and priests supported the regime, others under the leadership of the Archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez, set up the Vicariate of Solidarity, a human rights organization where "everyone went for help once their loved ones vanished."[3]


There are six Catholic universities in the country: Catholic University of the Most Holy Conception, Catholic University of the Maule, Catholic University of the North, Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso, Temuco Catholic University and Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, ranked No. 1 university in Chile and No. 2 in Latin America, according to QS Latin American University Rankings.[4]

Several religious orders sponsor a number of secondary and primary schools. One of the most famous is Saint George's College, run by the Congregation of Holy Cross. One third of the CEO's of the top 200 companies of Chile are alumni of Saint George's College.

Episcopal conference[edit]

The Episcopal Conference of Chile (Spanish: Conferencia Episcopal de Chile, CECh) is an agency of the Catholic Church which includes all the Archbishops and Diocesan Bishops, the Diocesan Directors and all those equivalent in law to the diocesan bishops, the Military Bishop, the coadjutor and auxiliary and Headlines Bishops performing their functions within the Chilean territory conferred by the Holy See or the Episcopal Conference. This organization allows the Bishops jointly exercise certain pastoral functions in a collegial manner. Usually meet at Assembly where national contingency discuss issues or topics that are related to the development of the Catholic Church in Chile. Express their opinion through documents or letters that are made known to the public. Also connected with the Government, through the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic.

This body is responsible for discerning proposed major guidelines regarding evangelization and religious education in Chile, which continuously focuses on topics like how to evangelize, the socio-economic problems the country and other short-term.

The President of the Conference is Bishop Santiago Jaime Silva Retamales, Military Ordinary Bishop of Chile. He was elected in 2016.

On 18 May 2018 every member of the Chilean Episcopal conference offered his resignation to Pope Francis after he had summoned them to Rome to discuss the sexual abuse scandal rocking the Chilean church. Unless and until the Pope accepts these resignations the members of the conference continue in their positions.[5] By 28 June 2018, Pope Francis accepted the resignations of five of Chile's 34 Bishops.[6] On 14 August 2018, Chilean police raided the headquarters of the Episcopal Conference.[7]

List of conference presidents

See also[edit]



  1. ^ 8 236 900 out of 12 366 108 people over 15 years of age. "Population 15 years of age or older, by religion, region, sex and age groups. (censused population)". Censo 2012 (in Spanish). Archived from the original (.xls) on 1 March 2014. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  2. ^ 7 853 428 out of 11 226 309 people over 15 years of age. "Population 15 years of age or older, by religion, administrative division, sex and age groups" (.pdf). Censo 2002 (in Spanish). Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  3. ^ Alexei Barrionuevo, A Serene Advocate for Chile's Disappeared, New York Times, 22 January 2010, 5.
  4. ^ http://www.topuniversities,com/universities/country/Chile[permanent dead link], 2019
  5. ^ O’Connell, Gerard (18 May 2018), "All of Chile's bishops offer resignations after meeting pope on abuse", America, New York City: America Press, Inc., retrieved 18 May 2018
  6. ^ "Pope accepts two more bishops' resignations in Chile -". 28 June 2018. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  7. ^ Press, Associated (14 August 2018). "Chile police raid Catholic church HQ in sex abuse investigation". the Guardian. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  8. ^ "Cardenal Ezzati deja la presidencia de Conferencia Episcopal". El Mostrador (in Spanish). 10 November 2016. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  9. ^ "La Conferencia Episcopal de Chile elige a su nuevo presidente". Zenit (in Spanish). 11 November 2016. Retrieved 2 May 2018.

External links[edit]

Media related to Roman Catholic Church in Chile at Wikimedia Commons