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As miners are rescued, Chileans unite in prayer

Miner Osman Araya hugs his wife after being hoisted to the surface in Copiapo, Chile (CNS photo/Hugo Infante-Government of Chile via Reuters)

As miners were pulled one by one from the tunnel in the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile’s churches were hosting round-the-clock vigils, special Masses appealing for the men’s safety and other prayers of thanksgiving.

At a Mass that began near midnight, as the first miner was being brought to the surface, Santiago Auxiliary Bishop Cristian Contreras Villarroel said the lives of the 33 miners should be seen as a sign of the need all people have for redemption.

He told the congregation in El Sagrario chapel, next to Santiago’s Metropolitan Cathedral: “There is no saint without a past, nor sinner without a future.”

An elaborate capsule system was pulling the miners one at a time from the tunnel where they were trapped in a collapse of the mine. Family members, medical personnel, politicians, reporters and well-wishers were there to meet each man as he left the capsule that drew him to the surface.

Prayer vigils and eucharistic adoration were to continue in churches around Chile until the last miner was pulled from the tunnel, Chilean Church leaders said.

Bishop Alejandro Goic Karmelic of Rancagua, president of the Chilean bishops’ conference, told reporters: “This is a propitious moment for the entire Church to unite in faith and hope.”

Opening the Santiago Mass, Cardinal Francisco Errazuriz Ossa asked the people of Chile to be united in prayer with the 33 miners and their families, “imploring the Lord to bring all of them to the surface” without setbacks. He also prayed for all the men as “they will be starting a new life”, happy and with the full blessing of God.