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Pope Pens Letter to Celebrate 500th Anniversary of First Mass in Chile

"That first Mass.. gave birth to the church that continues to go on a pilgrimage in that beloved nation."

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected celebrations around the world, but Catholics in Chile should still find meaningful ways to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the first Mass in the country, Pope Francis said.

In a letter he penned for the special occasion, the Holy Father says that “there is no obstacle that can silence the gratitude that springs from the hearts of all of you, sons and daughters of the pilgrim church in Chile.” The letter was addressed to Chilean Bishop Bernardo Bastres of Punta Arenas and to all dioceses in the country. (Read: Vatican Publishes Compilation of ‘Lockdown Homilies’ by Pope Francis)

“I encourage you to live the celebration of the Eucharistic mystery, which unites us to Jesus, with a spirit of adoration and thanksgiving to the Lord, because it is the principle of new life and unity for us and impels us to grow in fraternal service to the poorest and most disinherited of our society,” Pope Francis wrote.

First Catholic Mass in Chile

pope-francis-marks-500th-anniversary-of-first-mass-in-chile
Procession to commemorate the first Mass in Chile. (Photo from Diocese of Punta Arenas via CNA / Angelus News)

In 1520, Friar Pedro De Valderrama, chaplain of the famed expedition by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, celebrated Chile’s first-ever Sunday Mass in Fortescue Bay, near the area known today as Punta Arenas. (Read: NHCP Confirms First Easter Sunday Mass Held in Limasawa Island)

Past anniversaries have been marked with outdoor celebrations and processions. But due to health and safety restrictions, civil and religious gatherings have been halted.

‘God Entered From the South’

pope-francis-marks-500th-anniversary-of-first-mass-in-chile
Photo from CNS photo / Paul Haring / The Catholic Universe

Pope Francis quoted the Second Vatican Council and said that the celebration of the Eucharist is where “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,’ since that first Mass celebrated with faith, in the simplicity of an expedition in a then-unknown territory, gave birth to the church that continues to go on a pilgrimage in that beloved nation,” the Pope added.

He also said that despite the distance, he joins Chilean Catholics in their thanksgiving.

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