Chile bids farewell to Bishop Valech - 'voice of voiceless' under Pinochet

Bishop Sergio Valech

Bishop Sergio Valech

Tributes have been pouring in for Monsignor Sergio Valech Aldunate, Emeritus Auxiliary Bishop of Santiago,  who died yesterday at the age of 83 in the Santo Cura de Ars di Providencia religious house.

Bishop Valech, was known on an international level as a symbol of the Chilean Church which objected to the regime of Augusto Pinochet from 1973  to 1990.

He was “the voice of the voiceless during the dark night of the dictatorship. He turned into a rights defender, and was a man who saved many lives”, said former president Michelle Bachelet, who survived the dark years of the repression.

He was an example of simple life, very poor, not wanting anything for himself… an exemplary Chilean… "He was always in the frontline for the reconciliation of his homeland”, said Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, Archbishop of Santiago.

Lorena Pizarro, president of the association of families of the ‘detenidos- desaparecidos’ (Dissappeared), said:  “everything he did during the dictatorship he did with strength and courage for the cause”.

The entire political scene paid respects “to the most important figure of the cause of human rights during the military regime”, reads the online La Nacion newspaper, particularly for his role in the ‘Vicariate of Solidarity’ between 1988 and 1992, the pastoral body created by Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez in defence of the victims of the regime.

Bishop Valech’s efforts for human rights brought him in 2000 to participate in the ‘Table of Dialogue’ and since 2003 in the National commission on political detentions and torture, instituted by President Ricardo Lagos, and known as ‘Valech Commission’ because it was chaired by the prelate. The Commission had “a strong impact, not only because of the context in which it was created – 30 years from the 11 September 1973 coup – but the revelation of the over 30,000 people who testified”, adds the paper. The Chilean media also remembered the “austere life” led by Bishop Valech, who came from a wealthy family,  since being ordained priest in June 1953.

In 2006 he “was the private citizen who contributed most to the Chilean education sector… but he did it silently, which was his philosophy of life”, writes the ‘El Mercurio’ paper. The Bishop’s funeral will be celebrated on Friday in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, where he was consecrated on 18 October 1973 by Cardinal Silva and where now he was laid to rest.


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