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How John Paul II helped Chile and Argentina avoid going to war

2009-11-30

They turned to mediators such as the Hague Tribunal, the United States Attorney General and the Queen of England. However, none of them managed to bring them in line.

Then just hours before the Christmas of 1978, Argentina moved its troops and everything pointed that war was inevitable.

Hugo Gobi
Diplomatic Minister, Argentine Embassy to the Holy See
“Both countries had the logic of war behind them. They were both militarised, they were both sending troops to the borders. Actually they were on the brink of war”.

In the end, Argentine troops didn’t occupy the Island and just four months after his election as pontiff, John Paul II accepted to mediate. It was his first mission in international politics. It was a time the papal nuncio in Argentina Cardinal Pio Laghi lived intensely. This is how he remembered the conflict a few months before his death.

Card. Pío Laghi
Ex-nuncio in Argentina

“It was John Paul II, in the last hour, that he spoke to them, to those in power, Pinochet on one side and military junta on the other side, he spoke so strongly and he said, wait I come, and he sent immediately a cardinal to see whether they could find a way.”

The Pope appointed Cardinal Samoré mediator and sent him to the area. He was an effective mediator, in just two weeks the foreign ministers of Chile and Argentina signed the Act of Montevideo, which formally requested mediation from the Vatican and renounced the use of force.

The talks lasted for over 5 years. And concluded on  November 29th 1984, 25 years ago. On that day, the heads of state of Chile and Argentina signed a Treaty of Peace and Friendship at the Vatican.

The islands on the northern channel were awarded to Argentina and the islands on the southern half, to Chile. Moreover, both countries could sail through the area although the marine territory belongs to Argentina.

Card. Pío Laghi
Ex-nuncio in Argentina

“Through the good work of the cardinal and through the great credit John Paul II had, they avoided the war and they were able in the end to make peace.”

Nevertheless, the Pope’s mediator didn’t get to witness the signing of the treaty because he died some months earlier. In his honor, Chile and Argentina named one of its largest borders with the name International Pass Cardenal Samore.

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