Bishop Larraín and his relationship to Liberation Theology

Eras Journal – Llewellyn-Jones, E.: “Bishop Larrain and his relationship to Liberation Theology”

Bishop Larraín and his relationship to Liberation Theology
Edward Llewellyn-Jones

(Theology Department, University of Nottingham)


The appearance of Liberation Theology is usually associated with developments in Latin America, arising from the Second Vatican Council, and the publication of ‘A Theology of Liberation’ by Gustavo Gutiérrez in 1971. This assumption fails to take into account other attempts to give the Gospel message a Latin American emphasis.

Post-Conciliar ways of relating the lives of the poor and destitute to Church teaching in Latin America frequently resulted in associations with the politics of the Left, usually Socialism, often Marxism. It caused much soul searching due to the polarised conditions of Latin American politics: often people refused to accept the opposition’s views. It led to difficulties for the Church when a handful of priests joined armed groups to fight for political justice. Yet this was not the case in pre-Conciliar attempts. Evidence suggests roots within the political Right and the Church’s traditional teaching. Some of it can be traced back through the Jesuit Order to colonial times. My contention is that don Manuel Larraín Errázuriz,[1] Bishop of Talca in Chile, was the key figure during this pre-Conciliar period. Inspired by Church tradition as well as Rerum Novarum and later Quadragessimo Anno, he developed a theology with Chilean perspectives which could be applied across the continent. He never sought to work outside the Church. His influence spread across Latin America and inspired people like Gutiérrez. Thus Gutiérrez should be seen as the end of a theological process, rather than the beginning of a new one.

The Church and the situation in Chile

When Leo XIII published Rerum Novarum in 1891 he required members of the Church to consider social questions alongside devotional ones in their daily lives. The effect this had in Latin America, and in particular Chile, was unsettling for many members of the upper class who together with the episcopacy had no desire to work towards an ’emancipation’ of the working class.[2]

Following the First World War the Church worldwide found itself in a difficult situation because of the rise of the Soviet Union and Communism on the one hand, and Fascism and Nazism on the other. Conditions in Chile were no different. Political instability caused by the rising aspirations of the working classes culminated in 1931 with the overthrow of President Carlos Ibáñez. Governments of every political colour attempted to keep things under control for the next twelve months.That same year was the fortieth anniversary of Rerum Novarum and Pius XI issued an Encyclical – Quadragessimo Anno – an update and reminder to the faithful of its contents. It did not arrive in Chile at the most propitious moment.

The Chilean Conservative Party had always seen itself as the defender of the Church and opposed any changes which might affect its status, from whatever source. The constitutional settlement of 1925 arrived at between President Arturo Alessandri and Pius XI saw the separation of Church and State. It had been strongly supported by the Archbishop of Santiago. Because of both these events the Conservative Party felt let down by the very institution it was dedicated to protect.

The Conservative Party’s immediate reaction was not to permit the publication of Quadragessimo Anno, despite a series of entreaties by senior churchmen including the Archbishop of Santiago. The editor of the newspaper which acted as a mouthpiece for the Conservative Party refused to print even the briefest of paragraphs, saying ” …it was necessary to protect Catholics from papal lack of prudence”.[3]

Later that year some excerpts were broadcast over the radio by two Jesuits; the President of the Conservative Party complained to the Superior of the Order.[4] Nonetheless, the complete text was published the following year with Jesuit support.[5] Some have argued it had greater influence on younger people and that in 1938 it led to the creation of ‘Falange‘, a political party attempting to embody Christian principles based on the Church’s social teaching.[6]

A further factor affecting the Church in Chile was the letter received in 1934 from Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pius XII, on the subject of Church and politics.[7] In it he argued against close ties between the Church and any particular political party.[8]

Bishop Larraín – an introduction

It is against this background that we should consider the early life of Bishop Larraín who was born in December 1900. He belonged to a family tracing their ancestry to most of the nineteenth century presidents of Chile. They were rich landowners who expected to share the responsibility of governing the country. Don Manuel chose the path of the Church after attending the Jesuit school of St. Ignatius in Santiago during the time of the First World War.[9] There he fell under the influence of Father Vives who introduced him to the Church’s social teachings.[10] His arrival at university corresponded with the end of the war and the uncertain times that followed. He acknowledged “reading about and hearing of strikes and lockouts”, which he met “with an open spirit”.[11] These may well have been the tense months between October 1918 and March 1919 when Santiago, in particular, was gripped by civil unrest and industrial action where for the first time elements of ‘Christian Socialism’ found an expression.[12]

Between 1923 and 1928 Bishop Larraín studied in Rome and could not have avoided noticing the effects of World War I.[13] He acknowledged the influence of one of his teachers, Father Veermach, in appreciating the value of the Church’s social teaching and of recent Papal additions to it. [14] It would be difficult not to imagine him making a connection between the conditions of the poor and destitute in Rome in the mid-twenties with that of people in his own country, especially the farm workers on his family’s estate. He also confessed having fallen “into the horrible sin” of reading Jacques Maritain, liking and admiring him.[15] He was ordained in 1927.

It is evident Bishop Larraín held the Church in high regard because of a statement in his Last Will and Testament:[16]“I want my last word to be for the Church, the great love of my priestly life”.[17] Thus, he placed the Church at the centre of his life, accepted its teachings, and submitted himself to those demands. He had a comprehensive knowledge of the tradition from St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas to recent Pontiffs such as Leo XIII, Pius XI and Pius XII. He appears to have been drawn more to Pius XI. This may be because of the publication of Quadragessimo Anno four years after his ordination, as well as the Pope’s concern for those who suffered, the poor and the destitute within a context that rejected both Communist and Fascist solutions.

There is evidence he read more widely, such as the works of the Venerable Bede, Cardinal Manning, Cardinal Newman, Baden-Powell, and Karl Rahner to name a few.[18]

Bishop Larraín and Latin America

Although my intention is to concentrate on his social writings, it is important to note that the Bishop was a prolific writer and wrote more than just the works focused upon here. Taking his Episcopal duties seriously, he wrote many pastoral documents for the private use of ordained members of his diocese as well as more public ones for both clergy and laity. Other than that, he wrote articles, delivered speeches and gave interviews, all of which add to our understanding of his thoughts and opinions.[19]

Bishop Larraín’s earliest published writings displayed a grasp of theological issues with a social perspective. It is a theme that can be identified throughout his life and work and, I contend, had an effect on his contemporaries. There was nothing revolutionary or disturbing in his interpretations. They were marked by a shift in emphasis away from Eurocentricism to one that was grounded in the experience of local people. That effort was not new within the history of Christianity in Chile or elsewhere; he was simply revisiting a well-trodden approach undertaken in different parts of the world to appropriate the Gospel to local circumstances. The significance lies in who he was, where he lived, and the uncompromising nature of his language.

The second of the Bishop’s publications, dating from 1933, was a statement concerning the need for missionary work. He gave it the title ‘Light in the darkness’.[20] In it he described indigenous peoples’ perception of “Catholicism as synonymous to Europeanisation” and as a means of “oppression by whites”, all of which would have “disastrous consequences”.[21]

This suggests that the Bishop wanted to understand Latin American people and societies from within their own social and cultural context, while attempting to distance the Christian faith from specifically European ones. He wanted to lift the Church’s teaching out of a particular racial environment and promote the idea that all people were expressions of the Divine. This would reinforce the filial relationships of all men with the Father, as well as their sibling connections with one another. Hence the Bishop’s reference to the words of St Paul who claimed “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.[22] The approach taken by Bishop Larraín was similar to that advocated by some Jesuits in colonial times, particularly among the Mapuches, the indigenous people of southern Chile.[23]

Bishop Larraín – the community of the Church

One of the issues Bishop Larraín tackled was the encouragement given to Europeans to witness their faith in places like Chile. He saw it as undermining the development of vocations among local people.[24] Although he was not a nationalist according to the political ideologies of the 1930s, he recognised certain benign forces within nationalism. He believed the Church had to find a “solution to the problem of world evangelisation” by giving expression to the indigenous “frame of mind in regard to Catholicism”.[25] His thoughts led him to answers that fitted a Chilean context, even a wider Latin American one, but less likely to fit a European environment. So if the Chilean Church was to encourage vocations from within the country it would have to appeal to people with a theology based on local perspectives.

Notwithstanding, Bishop Larraín had no intention of developing a position which distanced either the Chilean Church or the faithful from the Vatican . From the beginning of his ministry he had reminded people of the words of St Cyprian “there is no salvation outside the Church”.[26] This position led him to underline allegiance to the Pope which he expressed unequivocally in 1940 when he claimed that “…we can be certain that in him can be found the fount of all goodness, of all grace, of all authority and of all jurisdiction”.[27] Nor did don Manuel envisage a reduction in the hierarchical structure centred round the Bishop. He argued that pastoral policy originated with the Bishop, from thence to parish priests and finally to the laity.[28]

What we have here are two contrasting positions: a ‘radical’ one seeking an expression of Christianity relevant to the people of his day; and a more ‘traditional’ approach to the nature of the Church, the Papacy and Episcopal authority. Therein lay a tension that Bishop Larraín resolved into an identifiable ‘Chilean emphasis’ of Christianity.

Bishop Larraín started with a description of the Church as the “most perfect community”. Then, quoting St Paul, he asserted those words expressed the eternal truth of “One Lord, one faith, one baptism”. He then linked these concepts to personal responsibility which could not be set aside, since:

Participating in this community means there is nothing which happens to another Church member or group that cannot be of interest to us. We would be lacking in Catholic spirit if we did not respond to the pain, anxieties and concerns of all our brethren in the faith.[29]

The Bishop’s concerns

This overtly traditional representation of the meaning of Church coupled with a demanding, yet equally traditional expectation regarding the behaviour of its members appeared to offer a way forward for the Church in Chile. The difficulty lay with Bishop Larraín’s intention to link the description of the Church as a community with improving the material conditions of people. He was aware of the differences between social classes in Chile, particularly their economic circumstances; the divide was far greater than in Europe.[30] This was a factor Christians in Chile had to wrestle with and could cause them to respond negatively, as with the case of Quadragessimo Anno. The Bishop was not known to pull back from a difficult challenge. That is why he questioned assumptions made by believers as well as non-believers concerning economics and politics. For instance:

The primacy of money as established by the capitalist system, is repugnant to our Christian concept of human beings, of work and of society[31]


Socialism agrees with the Church…trying to find a better way of distributing wealth is not a Socialist activity but a Christian one.[32]

The Bishop’s language was forthright and revealed the way his theological thinking impinged upon the political scene. Poverty was hard to overlook, and many saw the Catholic Church as responsible since it had had a monopoly over religious development across the continent. Some of the Church’s difficulties were based on its attitude to poverty since it relied on consoling people with the idea of plentiful rewards in Heaven. Considering that it was not until the mid-nineteenth century that other religious groups made their appearance, which was followed by the arrival of political views based on Marxism and their avowal of atheism, it is not surprising that the Catholic Church’s position was difficult.

There is no evidence that Bishop Larraín was comfortable with the idea that poverty was some sort of blessing that resulted in heavenly rewards; on the other hand he rejected Marxist analyses on the subject of poverty. The opposite political position, liberal capitalist economic models, was also rejected by don Manuel. He argued for a middle way based on the connection between faith and practice. His intention was to find an unequivocal Christian solution to political structures, and poverty in particular. These found expression in a pamphlet published in 1960 under the title ‘Latin America – problems, dangers, solutions’.[33] It was a wide-ranging, albeit brief, analysis of the nature and danger of Communism for Latin America and the role the Church should take in the struggle to contain and eventually defeat it.

One of the Bishop’s main concerns in the pamphlet was to place Christian moral perspectives “in contact with the realities of human life”.[34] By doing so he hoped to bring faith in Christ into a living relationship with people’s everyday actions and needs. Bishop Larraín did so because he was upset by the fact that the Church’s Social Doctrine was not well known and even worse, ignored;[35] and that many members of the Church, both ordained and lay, failed to put it into practice. He decided to lead by example, and in 1962 distributed farm land belonging to his diocese to the farmers who worked it.[36] By doing this he sent a direct message to the Conservative government of President Jorge Alessandri that land reform was overdue. Also, his action was a practical answer to the accusation he had made in 1953 at a Congress on Rural Affairs in Colombia, that “large ‘feudal-style’ estates are anti-Christian”.[37] Additionally, Bishop Larraín’s behaviour encouraged more advanced thinking within some Church circles. His stance was based on a deeply held view of the nature of property influenced by the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas who regarded its usage as being ‘social’, that is, benefiting the community as a whole.[38]

For a community to benefit from the actions of individuals it was necessary for these individuals to behave and respond in ways that were compatible with Church teaching. That is why don Manuel strongly criticised those who claimed to be members of the Church but did not reflect its Social Doctrine in their lives.[39] He regarded this attitude, based on Pius XII’s teachings, as “endangering their faith and the moral order” since it was not an optional aspect of Christian life but “compulsory”. [40]This attitude can also be found in his address at his consecration as Bishop of Talca in 1938, where he called for the Social Doctrine to ” …become part of peoples’ consciences, take their place within legislation, inspire customs…”.[41]

The changes Bishop Larraín wished to see taking place relied on the commitment of an individual to the Social Doctrine, and their ability to influence opinion and finally affect communities. The underlying theme of his argument can be identified as the working of the Holy Spirit. It lay at the heart of the Bishop’s understanding of the relationship between each person, God, and the community they lived in. That is why he criticised religious hypocrisy, especially if it thwarted Divine hopes. He wrote that:

…we cannot piously and sincerely pray each day the sublime entreaty ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven’ if we realise that we violate our Heavenly Father’s will every time His children are compelled, because of the material and moral situation many face in the world of work, to risk their souls in order to earn their bread.[42]

The bolstering of personal spiritual development was important to Bishop Larraín, as can be adduced by this passage, but a detailed analysis of his views falls beyond the scope of this paper.[43] He linked a person’s spiritual maturity to tangible social values such as a fairer distribution of earthly goods. That is why he gave so much emphasis to both Rerum Novarum and Quadragessimo Anno. He drew from the second of these Encyclicals the call for “the redemption of the working person” which he conceived of on three connected levels – “the spiritual, the economic and the social”.[44] This focus on personal spiritual development is also why he found the thrust of John XXIII’s Papacy so congenial and described Mater et Magistra, published in 1961, as a “polished document”.[45] He saw it as a high watermark in the Church’s social teachings and depicted it as:

…the vessel for the Church in our century to absorb Her values and project them within the plan of Redemption, because the Son of Man did not come to condemn the world but to save it.[46]

Mater et Magistra became the subject of his inaugural address at a conference of International Catholic Organisations in Buenos Aires in August 1962. The analysis can be read as a summary of his own endeavours since it faced up to the conditions of people and set about trying to bridge the gap which had opened up between them and the Church. His address can be read as a study in redemption. He saw redemption as being achieved through a person’s complete commitment to Christ. This commitment called for action and not words. For don Manuel, people’s lives had to be affected positively, and their enjoyment of this life was a significant test of the efficacy of the Gospel message. It reflected Jesus’ many claims to have come to heal the sick and the destitute, and to bring comfort to the needy.

The influence of Bishop Larraín

Bishop Larraín’s concern with the Christian message making a difference in the daily lives of all people was the factor that made his approach different. It brought him to the attention of many people at different levels of society both in Chile and abroad. Pius XII was sufficiently impressed with him to accede to his request for the creation of a Bishops’ Conference in Latin America. This was achieved in 1955 and held its first meeting that year in Rio de Janeiro.[47] Within Chile, the Bishop was admired by the younger generation of Conservative politicians in the 1930s who felt the Church’s social teachings were not being put into practice, and founded a new political party. They called it ‘Falange‘ later to change its name to Christian Democracy. As a teacher at the Seminary in Santiago Bishop Larraín influenced a number of men, many of whom took on positions of importance within the Church during the years of President Allende and then the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. It also allowed him to develop a friendship with the future Cardinal Archbishop of Santiago, Raú l Silva Henríquez. During the course of Vatican II Bishop Larraín did a lot of work behind the scenes, particularly in regard to the calling of the second conference of Latin American Bishops which was held at Medellín, Colombia in 1968.[48]

One of the better known figures whom he taught and who is seldom linked to him was Gustavo Gutiérrez, the author of ‘A Theology of Liberation’. He has been described as a person with “a brain like a sponge”, who took in that aspect of Bishop Larraín’s teaching that called for a connection between faith and action.[49] Evidence of a continued relationship does not exist but a significant fact is the invitation for Gutiérrez to form part of the group who were given the task to prepare the theological papers for the Episcopal Conference at Medellín.[50] One of the principal themes and objects was to find ways of enabling the ‘liberation of man’ through Christ. Thus, it became the scene for the first discussions and launch of those ideas that formed the basis of Liberation Theology. The conference was held after the death of Bishop Larraín but was dedicated to him as the person who inspired it.[51]

The fact that the idea for the conference had been the Bishop’s is significant since it set out to update the Church in Latin America along the lines of Vatican II, particularly its Social Doctrine. Several ideas which found their way into the final document from Medellín can be traced to a number of Larraín’s works. For instance, the argument he first developed in ‘Light in the darkness’ to distance Latin American Christianity from European cultural ties and traces of colonialism can be found in the Medellín document. It claimed for Latin America its own reality based on its own “history, values and problems”.[52] The document also called for a recognition of “popular religiosity” and rejected “a westernised cultural interpretation” because it had little meaning for rural or marginalised groups.[53]

Significantly, Gutiérrez expressed similar views, when he wrote:

Overcoming the colonial mentality is one of the important tasks of the Christian community. In this way, it will be able to make a genuine contribution to the enrichment of the universal Church; it will be able to face its real problems and to sink deep roots into a continent in revolution.[54]

Although the thoughts are similar, other than the words “continent in revolution”, this passage is not evidence of direct influence, but of the Bishop’s ideas finding expression in Gutiérrez’s work.

Don Manuel’s ideas about land reform and the negative effects of capitalism as practised in Latin America were fully explored and criticised at Medellín and by Gutiérrez in his book. Thus, some of what the Bishop began writing about in 1933 became common currency in 1968. Part of his impact lies in who he was and the timing of his message. The fact he belonged to a distinguished Chilean family meant he was expected to behave ‘according to type’. They were so shocked by his critical stance that they used every possible pressure through Chile’s ambassador at the Vatican to ensure he was not named Archbishop of Santiago following the death of Cardinal Archbishop Caro in 1958.[55]From outside his circle, he would be looked up to and respected. Those that listened and stayed with him did so because they sensed he was on their side based on the substance of his message. It caught the mood of the time because the world was going through a series of changes and disturbances. The awful legacies of the First and Second World Wars, the rise of Communism and the Soviet Union, together with the growth of world markets, all had an effect on the Christian message; it was losing its appeal. Bishop Larraín tried to engage with that consequence and believed it had to be practical if it was to be true to itself and succeed. This latter point became a central theme for Liberation Theology.

Although secular political actions had begun to radicalise sections of the Church both in Chile and Latin America, Bishop Larraín appears not to have left any evidence of his thoughts on this. It is therefore difficult to dismiss or confirm support by him for actions like those of Camilo Torres in Colombia.[56] Yet this and other examples influenced some of those who had been asked to prepare documents for the Episcopal Conference. Medellín opened the doors to Marxist theory to sit alongside Church teaching and allowed for the creation of movements like ‘Christians for Socialism’ in Chile after 1970. This is where their views could not possibly converge; Bishop Larraín would not have had anything to do with them.


It was Bishop Larraín’s strong stance against the accumulation of wealth and property by a minority, on theological grounds, that marked him out as different. Such behaviour disfigured the message of the Gospel. These were the themes that had troubled Latin American societies since their independence from Spain and Portugal. In the twentieth century it was linked to the rise of popular support for Communists and Socialists. Bishop Larraín tried to guide people away from participation in these parties and did so in pragmatic terms. Thus it could be argued that he was ‘behaving according to type’ since greater support of and participation in the Church would probably increase the power of the upper classes because they exercised control over it.

The evidence does not support this argument. Not only did Bishop Larraín do nothing to prevent the disintegration of the Conservative Party, he appears to have had some hand in the founding of ‘Falange‘ and later the Christian Democrats. Furthermore, his relationship with the initial stages of Medellín, the most forward thinking Episcopal Conference of its kind in Latin America, must be borne in mind.

There had been few Church leaders before Bishop Larraín who had taken this line of thought.[57] Certainly within the mid-twentieth century he was one of the few voices expressing these opinions in a Latin American context. His was a rare opinion considering his background and theology. Yet he succeeded in creating a Christian response which took into account the main thrust of the Catholic Church’s dogmatic position, coupled with the needs of the majority of people, whilst quietly influencing a series of individuals and institutions based on the Social Doctrine. It has meant that he was claimed by traditionalists, who saw him as the archetypal Bishop intent on bolstering the authority of the Church, as well as by the modernisers who saw him as the forerunner of a more engaged theology and freer Church structure.

His desire to seek the redemption of every person, by valuing them to the extent of arguing they had a right to a fair share of the world’s land and wealth, meant he opened up a dialogue within the Church that allowed the possibility of new ideas that challenged the political status quo. His involvement with Medellín as a way of updating the Christian message in Latin America as well as a means of counteracting the influence of Marxism may not have succeeded because of his death. It deprived the Conference of his influence. Based on his published works it is difficult to prove a direct influence over the conclusions they arrived at and those subsequently in Gutiérrez’s book. What can be claimed is that his spirit, if not his ideas, can be found within the documents of the Conference and what followed.

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[1] I have given the Bishop his full surname as is the custom in Chile. Every person is given their father’s and mother’s paternal surnames and they are written in that order. They only pass on their father’s surname to their children. Thus the Bishop would be addressed as don Manuel, Monseñor Larraín or as in the text.

[2] Hugo Cancino T., Chile : Iglesia y Dictadura 1973-1989, Odense University Press, Odense, 1997, p. 12.

[3] Alejandro Magnet P., El Padre Hurtado, Editorial Los Andes, Santiago, 1990. All translations of works in Spanish are mine and any errors are also mine.

[4] Alejandro Magnet P., El Padre Hurtado, p. 109.

[5] Alejandro Magnet P., El Padre Hurtado, p. 109.

[6] Alejandro Magnet P., El Padre Hurtado, p. 110.

[7] This letter was received from Cardinal Pacelli as a reply to guidance sought by the Bishop of La Serena, José María Caro future Cardinal Archbishop of Santiago, on the subject of acceptable relationships between the Church and political parties. It had been influenced by the problems with the Conservative Party. The crucial paragraph reads, “It is evident that the Church cannot associate itself with the activities of a political party without compromising its supernatural character and with the universality of its mission”. Carlos González, Historia de una polémica, Fundación Eduardo Frei, Santiago, 1997 p. 31.

[8] Carlos González C., Historia de una polémica, p. 31.

[9] Carlos González C., Historia de una polémica, p. 99.

[10] Fernando Vives del Solar, S.J. ( 1871-1935) joined the Jesuit Order in 1897. The Novitiate was in Córdoba, Argentina, where he trained and was ordained. He returned to Chile in 1910 and taught at the Jesuit School of St Ignatius. He had accepted the teachings contained in Leo XIII’s Encyclical Rerum Novarum which he sought to apply by supporting and involving himself in the developing trades union movement whilst also sharing his views with pupils at the school. Within three years he had fallen foul of many of the political and ecclesiastical leaders and was sent abroad where he could no longer be involved in or influence the situation. He was allowed to return in 1915 and once again took up a similar position. It was at this point that he met Manuel Larraín and Alberto Hurtado; he became the latter’s mentor and confessor. At the end of the First World War he was sent to Belgium where he expected to stay for only one year. He remained there for a number of years until he was sent to Spain. Expelled by the Republican government in 1931 he returned to Chile where he died in 1935.

[11] Carlos González C., Historia de una polémica, p. 99.

[12] P. R. de Diego M., L. A. Peña R.,& C. E. Peralta C., ‘La asamblea obrera de alimentación nacional’, unpublished thesis, Universidad Academia Humanismo Cristiano, Santiago, 2001, p. 144. This thesis was written by three students as part of their degree and published internally in January 2001. In it they argue that an important working class movement attempting to gain substantial advances with regard to wages and social security, particularly food, was at first supported by a new movement, the Federation of Catholic Working Men’s Societies, and then betrayed by them. It involved members of the Conservative Party as well as the recently appointed Archbishop of Santiago, Crescente Errázuriz, an uncle of Manuel Larraín. The movement succeeded in its claims but saw much of it undone by subsequent legislation passed by the new administration elected in 1920.

[13] He attended the Colegio Pío Latino, a training establishment for ordinands from Latin America set up by Pius IX in 1858 on the instigation of Mons. Alejo Eyzaguirre, a Chilean cleric who had petitioned that the most outstanding ordinands of Latin America should benefit from training in Rome under the watchful eye of the Pope. See Pedro de la Noi B., Escritos Completos de Mons. Larraín, Vol I, Ediciones Paulinas, Santiago, 1976, pp. 405-413.

[14] Carlos González C., Historia de una polémica, p. 100.

[15] Carlos González C., Historia de una polémica, p. 101.

[16] His will was originally written in 1946 and altered several times until it was published on his death in June 1966.

[17] Pedro de la Noi B., Escritos completos, Vol. I, p. 29.

[18] Pedro de la Noi B., Escritos completos, Vol. I, p. 369; Pedro de la Noi B., Escritos completos de Mons. Larraín, Vol II, Imprenta de San José, Santiago, 1977, p. 38; Carlos González C., Historia de una polémica , p. 100; Carlos González C.,Historia de una polémica , p. 71; Pedro de la Noi B., Escritos completos, Vol I, p. 257.

[19] These writings have been collected into five volumes by Father Pedro de la Noi, a lecturer at the Catholic University of Santiago. He explained the thinking behind his editorial work in the introduction to the first volume, saying that he has taken the Church as the central theme and grouped the Bishop’s writings on the basis of its inner life, its spiritual life and liturgy, and finally in the world. The compilation does not attempt to interpret or explain the material other than in the way it has been classified, therefore there has been no assessment of its particular value or meaning. To attempt an analysis of these volumes would digress from the object of this article and it is simply as an acknowledgment of his wide and prolific output that it is mentioned.

[20] This particular publication was intended as a contribution to the 1900 anniversary of the Crucifixion and the need for continued evangelisation.

[21] Manuel Larraín E., Luz en las tinieblas, Imprenta de San José, Santiago, 1933, p. 25.

[22] Manuel Larraín E., Luz en las tinieblas, p. 5. All translations of Biblical passages in this article are taken from the Revised Standard Version.

[23] For a full analysis of the relationship of the Church during the first half of the colonial administration of Chile I have consulted Eugene H. Korth, Spanish Policy in Colonial Chile, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1968, to whom I am indebted for the argument that defence of the indigenous population by members of the clergy and religious orders goes back to the earliest years of Spanish rule. Similar arguments have been advanced by Enrique Dussel and Maximiliano Salinas, but Korth’s is the more consistent and fully researched within the context of Chile.

[24] There are two interesting analyses by Alberto Hurtado not long after his return to Chile from his training and ordination in Europe. The first appeared in 1936 with the title ‘The crisis of priestly vocations in Chile’, and the second was published in 1941 titled ‘Is Chile a Catholic Country?’ In both books there is statistical analysis of the number of priests per head of population and the number of those who came from abroad. He noted that in 1938 of the 1600 priests in the country, 700 were foreign. Alberto Hurtado C., ¿Es Chile un país católico? Second edition, Editorial Los Andes, Santiago, 1995, p. 121.

[25] Manuel Larraín E., Luz en las tinieblas, p. 25.

[26] Manuel Larraín E., Luz en las tinieblas, p. 9.

[27] Pedro de la Noi B., Escritos completos de Mons. Larraín, Imprenta de San José, Santiago, Vol. III, p. 71.

[28] Pedro de la Noi B., Escritos completos, Vol. I, p. 428.

[29] Pedro de la Noi B., Escritos completos, Vol. III, p. 65.

[30] Pedro de la Noi B., Escritos completos, Vol. I, p. 424.

[31] Manuel Larraín E., Redención proletaria, Club de lectores, Santiago, 1948, p. 18.

[32] Manuel Larraín E., La Iglesia ante el problema social , Editorial Difusión Chilena, Santiago, 1941, pp. 64 – 65.

[33] Pedro de la Noi B., Escritos completos, Vol. I, pp. 422-434.

[34] Pedro de la Noi B., Escritos completos, Vol. I, pp. 428.

[35] Pedro de la Noi B., Escritos completos, Vol. I, pp. 428.

[36] Pedro de la Noi B., Escritos completos, Vol. I, pp. 442.

[37] Manuel Larraín E., Escritos Sociales, Editorial del Pacífico, Santiago, 1963, p. 113. I have translated the Spanish word latifundio in this way as it conveys the sense of what they were like. Apart from being very large they also included the workers who gave value to the land and found it difficult to leave without permission. Although they were not slaves or serfs their condition was similar.

[38] Carlos González C., Historia de una polémica, pp. 67-75.

[39] Pedro de la Noi B., Escritos completos, Vol. I, p. 428.

[40] Manuel Larraín E., Escritos Sociales, p. 85.

[41] Manuel Larraín E., Escritos Sociales, p. 17.

[42] Manuel Larraín E., Escritos Sociales, p. 57.

[43] The third of the volumes edited by Pedro de la Noi and published in 1978 covers the life of the Church and its spirituality. There are a number of articles that develop the theme of personal growth for individuals and would be the subject of a separate analysis.

[44] Manuel Larraín E., Escritos Sociales, p. 119.

[45] Manuel Larraín E., Escritos Sociales, p. 215.

[46] Manuel Larraín E., Escritos Sociales, pp. 230-231.

[47] The subject of the Conference was vocations, in particular the priesthood. The lack of young men coming forward had reached crisis level and had also been an area of concern for the Bishop. The way the Conference was conducted meant that it achieved very little and don Manuel was disappointed.

[48] Hernán Parada, Crónica de Medellín, Indo-American Press Service, Bogotá, 1975, pp. 39-40.

[49] In an interview with Father Pepo Gutiérrez (no relation) at his Parish Church of La Matríz, in Valparaíso on the 21 November, 2001, I was told that they had both attended the Seminary in Santiago at the same time and had been taught by Bishop Larraín. It was Father Pepo who used the description of being a ‘sponge’. He also claimed that when he read Gustavo Gutiérrez’s book for the first time, he recognised don Manuel’s influence. I have not been able to find any of this information in print elsewhere other than the fact that Gustavo Gutiérrez did attend the Seminary in Santiago during the time that Bishop Larraín taught there.

[50] Hernán Parada, Crónica de Medellín, pp. 47, 255, 262. Further information of an informal relationship between Bishop Larraín and Gustavo Gutiérrez was given to me in an interview with Father Renato Poblete in Santiago, Chile on the 20 November, 2001. He suggested that the Bishop had viewed Gutiérrez’s theological opinions positively and had invited him on several occasions to discuss matters with him.

[51]Hernán Parada, Crónica de Medellín, p. 2.

[52] CELAM, Medellín – Mensaje a los pueblos de América Latina , CELAM website , 2000, Mensaje 2.

[53] CELAM, Medellín – Mensaje, Conclusiones 6, 4.

[54] Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation, Third Impression, SCM Press Ltd, London, 1977, p. 140.

[55] This information was given to me by Juan Subercaseaux during an interview in Santiago on the 14 November, 2001. The Ambassador, Fernando Aldunate, was a cousin of Bishop Larraín.

[56] Camilo Torres was born in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1929 into an upper-class family. He studied Law but gave that up to train for the priesthood. After ordination he studied sociology at Louvain and became interested in people’s conditions in his native Colombia. He was moved by their poverty, believed in land reform, and developing a Latin American identity. He became disenchanted with the role of the Church and promoted violence as means of achieving economic equality. In 1965 he joined the Army of National Liberation and was killed in February 1966 when his detachment was ambushed by government forces.

[57] There are none before him in the twentieth century and the most well known from previous centuries across Latin America is Bartolomé de las Casas in the sixteenth century, and in Chile, Luis de Valdivia in the early seventeenth century. Archbishop Helder Câmara was a contemporary of Bishop Larraín and is widely reputed to have taken up the mantel of his work after his death in 1966.