Raúl Silva Henríquez

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Raúl Silva Henríquez

Archbishop Emeritus of Santiago de Chile
CardenalSilvaHenriquez cropped.jpg
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
ArchdioceseSantiago de Chile
SeeSantiago de Chile
Appointed14 May 1961
Installed24 June 1961
Term ended3 May 1983
PredecessorJosé María Caro Rodríguez
SuccessorJuan Francisco Fresno Larraín
Other postsCardinal-Priest of San Bernardo alle Terme (1962-99)
Ordination3 July 1938
by Maurilio Fossati
Consecration29 November 1959
by Opilio Rossi
Created cardinal19 March 1962
by Pope John XXIII
Personal details
Birth nameRaúl Silva Henríquez
Born(1907-09-27)27 September 1907
Talca, Chile
Died9 April 1999(1999-04-09) (aged 91)
La Florida, Chile
BuriedSantiago de Chile, Chile
DenominationCatholic (Roman Rite)
Previous postBishop of Valparaíso (1959–61)
Alma mater
MottoCaritas Christi urget nos
Coat of armsCoat of arms of Raúl Silva

Raúl Silva Henríquez SDB (27 September 1907 – 9 April 1999) was a Chilean prelate of the Catholic Church, a Cardinal from 1962. He served as Archbishop of Santiago de Chile from 1961 to 1983 and as Bishop of Valparaíso from 1959 to 1961. Both as Archbishop and in retirement, he was an advocate for social justice and democracy and a forthright vocal critic of the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet—"a constant thorn in the Government's side".[1]


Born in Talca, Silva Henríquez was the sixteenth of nineteen children, his father, Ricardo Silva Silva, was a farmer and industrialist of Portuguese descent, and his mother was Mercedes Henríquez Encina. After studying at the Catholic University of Chile where he obtained his doctorate in law, Silva joined the Salesians of Don Bosco on 28 January 1930, he studied at the Salesian Pontifical University in Turin and earned a doctorate in theology and in canon law. He was ordained to the priesthood in Turin on 3 July 1938.

He taught in Chile from 1939 to 1945 and then became director of the Salesian College La Cisterna.[2] From 1951 to 1959 he headed Caritas Chile while also serving as director as Salesian theological studies.[2]

On 24 October 1959, Pope John XXIII named Silva Bishop of Valparaíso, he received his episcopal consecration on 29 November from Archbishop Opilio Rossi, with Archbishop Emilio Tagle Covarrubias and Bishop Vladimiro Boric Crnosija SDB, as co-consecrators. He was named Archbishop of Santiago on 14 May 1961.

Pope John made him Cardinal-Priest of S. Bernardo alle Terme at the consistory of 19 March 1962.[2] He was on good terms with industry leaders and government officials, including both future dictator Augusto Pinochet and the incoming President Salvador Allende, whose Marxist views he opposed but did not find alarming because Allende, he said, "was always prepared to talk",[3] he once said: "There are more of the Gospel's values in socialism than there are in capitalism."[4]

In Santiago he quickly established his reputation as an advocate of far-reaching and immediate social reform,[5] he distributed land on large estates owned by the Church to the peasants who worked on them peasants, saying that "These lands have served God for a long time, but I believe that the needs of the workers on these lands are greater."[6]

When Fidel Castro visited Chile in 1972, Silva gave him 10,000 Bibles to distribute in Cuba.[3]

Silva attended the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965. In October 1964, he joined the prelates who signed a petition asking Pope Paul VI to support the Council's drafts of declarations on the Church's attitude toward the Jews and on religious liberty and to resist conservative attempts to weaken them.[7]

He was one of the cardinal electors in the 1963 papal conclave, which elected Pope Paul VI, he participated in the conclaves of August and October 1978, which elected Popes John Paul I and John Paul II respectively.

A statue of Silva in front of the cathedral in Sabtiago

He was an outspoken opponent of General Augusto Pinochet, the military ruler who came to power in a 1973 coup and ruled until 1990, though he initially imagined he could use his friendship with Pinochet to moderate his policies, he eventually became the regime's chief critic.[5] In April 1974, on behalf of Chile's bishops, he issued a statement denouncing the regime for political persecution and economic policies that burdened the poor, calling ofr ideological reconciliation,[8] he called for the restoration of democracy, aid victims of political persecution in finding employment, and provided legal assistance to political prisoners. He compared Pinochet's oppression of the Church to that experienced by the early Christians at the hands of the Roman Emperors.[9] In the absence of political opposition that had been silenced, imprisoned or exile, the church under his leadership became "the effective resistance to the regime";[3] when the government shut down an ecumenical group fostering social conciliation that Silva founded, Silva re-established it the next day as the Vicariate of Solidarity, headquartered inside the cathedral in Santiago.[3][6] When the government adopted a conciliatory tone and allow Silva to visit political prisoners, he collected information on human rights abuses and government-sponsored torture that served as the basis for a report after Pinochet fell from power that listed more than 3,000 Chileans who were killed in prison or disappeared.[3] Government supporters threatened him by desecrating his parents' grave and shooting at his house.[4]

Silva is believed to have played a key role in persuading the governments of Chile and Argentina to allow Pope John Paul II to mediate their border dispute and avoid war in 1978.[5]

Pope John Paul II accepted his resignation as Archbishop of Santiago on 3 May 1983, after twenty-one years of service.[citation needed] Pinochet's wife Lucía Hiriart greeted his retirement with the words "¡Al fin Dios nos ha escuchado!" (At last God has heard us!").[10] When Chilean Church officials criticized the Pinochet regime the next month, it defended dissent and called for reconciliation, but dropped Silva's direct criticism of the government and his calls for democracy.[11] In 1986, when U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, sponsor of a 1976 amendment banning military assistance to Chile and a critic of the government, visited Chile, Silva met with him while his success as archbishop refused to.[12]

In December 1978, the Vicariate for Solidaity was awarded the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights;[13] the Bruno Kreisky Prize for Services to Human Rights in 1984.[14]

He founded the Academy of Christian Humanism in 1988, an outgrowth of his effort beginning in 1975 to bring intellectuals together to discuss politics, society, economy and culture in Chile.[15]

Silva suffered from Alzheimer's disease near the end of his life and died of a heart attack at a Salesian retirement house in La Florida, at age 91, and was buried in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, his death left Franz Cardinal König as the only surviving cardinal elevated by John XXIII.[16] The government of Chile declared five days of national mourning after his death and President Eduardo Frei said Silva's death was "a deep pain for the entire nation".[4] The Guardian headlined his obituary: "Pinochet's turbulent priest" and crowds at his funeral chanted "Raul, amigo, el pueblo esta contigo" (Raul, friend, the people are with you).[6]

Selected writings[edit]

  • El Cardenal Raúl Silva Henríquez nos dijo, 2 volumes (Editorial Tiberíades, 2002) ‹See Tfd›(in Spanish)


  1. ^ Kinzer, Stephen (20 November 1983). "Church in Chile Doesn't Just Pray for Reform". New York Times. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Sketches of Men Named Cardinals" (PDF). New York Times. 18 February 1962. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Raul Silva Henriquez". The Economist. 15 April 1999. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "Raul Silva Henriquez Dies". Washington Post. 11 April 1999. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Page, Eric (12 April 1999). "Raul Silva Henriquez, 91, Chile Cardinal, Dies". New York Times. Retrieved 7 June 2018. By 1963 the Cardinal had become one of the foremost figures of Latin America in campaigning for immediate sweeping reforms to improve the lives of the masses.
  6. ^ a b c Dixon, Clare (13 April 1999). "Cardinal Archbishop Raul Silva Henriquez obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  7. ^ Doty, Robert C. (13 October 1964). "Group at Council Urges Pope Back Schema on Jews". New York Times. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  8. ^ Kandell, Jonathan (25 April 1974). "Chilean Bishops Accuse Junta of 'Climate of Fear'". New York Times. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  9. ^ Drinan, Robert F. (11 September 1985). "12 Years of Night in Chile". New York Times. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  10. ^ Délano, Manuel (10 April 1999). "Muere el cardenal chileno Silva Henríquez, fundador de la Vicaría de la Solidaridad". El País. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  11. ^ Schumacher, Edward (25 June 1983). "Church in Chile Defends Dissent and Urges Talks with Opposition". New York Times. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  12. ^ Chavez, Lydia (16 January 1986). "Protest Hinders Kennedy in Chile". New York Times. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  13. ^ "List of previous recipients". United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  14. ^ "Awards 1984". Bruno Kreisky Foundation for Human Rights. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  15. ^ "Nuestra Historia". Universidad Academia de Humanismo Cristiano (in Spanish). Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  16. ^ "Chili: Décès du cardinal Silva Henriquez, 'voix des sans voix' sous la dictature de Pinochet". Portal Catholique Suisse (in French). 11 April 1999. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
Additional sources
  • Aguilar, Mario I. (October 2003). "Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez, the Catholic Church, and the Pinochet Regime, 1973-1980: Public Responses to a National Security State". The Catholic Historical Review. 89 (4): 712–731. JSTOR 25026464.
  • Molineaux, David (23 April 1999). "Chile honors memory of cardinal who opposed Pinochet". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 7 June 2018.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Rafael Lira
Bishop of Valparaíso
Succeeded by
Emilio Tagle
Preceded by
José María Caro
Archbishop of Santiago de Chile
Succeeded by
Juan Francisco Fresno