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Chile: Easter Island celebrates 160 years of Evangelisation

Vatican News has recently reported on a recent event on Easter Island, in which Sandro Mancilla sscc, Provincial of Chile and Argentina, and Éric Hernout sscc, General Archivist, participated from our Congregation. Here is the full article:

The Catholic community of one of the most remote territories in the world vigorously celebrated the anniversary of the arrival of the first missionary in 1864. The bishop of the diocese of Valparaíso made a grateful memory of the work of the Catholic Church and encouraged the translation into the language location of liturgical and biblical texts.

Although it is known in the world as Easter Island, its original name is Rapa Nui, a Chilean territory of just over 163 square kilometers located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, where around eight thousand people live. The island is world famous for its moai, enormous anthropomorphic sculptures that evoke the presence of the ancestors of the Rapanui people. The parish of the Holy Cross brings together the local Catholics, who this Wednesday, January 3, greatly celebrated the arrival of the first missionary to the island, Brother Eugenio Eyraud sscc. The French friar of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts landed there in 1864 and, despite the original resistance of the native population, carried out fruitful work that continues to this day.

That is why Monsignor Jorge Vega svd, bishop of Valparaíso, proposed a day dedicated to grateful celebration of the presence of the Catholic Church, remembering so many priests, nuns and catechists who over the years have contributed to evangelization. Furthermore, during the Eucharist that he presided over, the prelate expressed the hope that vocations to consecrated life would emerge from the island and also “that in the near future the complete liturgy could be celebrated in Rapa Nui.”   Father Bernardo Astudillo, the local parish priest, the only resident priest who accompanies the local community every day, fully agreed with the Bishop.  “This is a great challenge, because the Rapanui language is alive and we need to go day by day applying translation with today’s language, because there are texts that are translated, but in ancient language. So, an update is needed, with the terms that are used today, of the translation of both the liturgical texts and the Holy Scripture,” stated the priest

A fruitful crossover between the Gospel and Rapanui culture has allowed Christianity to be lived deeply on Easter Island.

To celebrate with the Rapanui community the 160 years of the announcement of the Gospel on Easter Island, among other ecclesiastical authorities, the Apostolic Nuncio, Monsignor Alberto Ortega, also arrived; the Archbishop Emeritus of Santiago, Cardinal Celestino Aós; and the Provincial Superior of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts in Chile and Argentina, Father Sandro Mancilla. In addition, local civil authorities, the Armed Forces and the Security and Order Forces were present.

At the end of the Eucharist, various recognitions were given to the lay people most committed to the service of evangelization, and later everyone went to the parish hall, which was blessed by the Apostolic Nuncio. The festivities concluded outdoors with a huge curanto, a meal based on seafood, meat and vegetables, in addition to the traditional Polynesian dances of Rapa Nui.

Elena Tuki Hotus was moved by the presence of the bishops and by the enormous dedication of the parish priest to prepare the celebration. “This party was wonderful for all of us, spectacular, I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” said this renowned leader of one of the oldest family clans on the island.