ROME, NOV. 29, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet are expressing their gratitude to Pope John Paul II for his role in helping the two neighboring countries avert war in the 1970s.
The presidents said this Saturday after meeting with Benedict XVI to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1984 Peace and Friendship Treaty, which had successfully mediated a peaceful resolution to a border conflict between the two primarily Catholic countries.
Fernandez de Kirchner told reporters at a press conference that “the avoidance of a war was an achievement of Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Antonio Samore.”
The Argentine president said “a war would have marked for decades” the future of both countries.
Praising John Paul II, the leader described the Pontiff as “someone who is not on one side or the other, but is for peace,” and called him a “true testimony of conviction of peace.”
Chile’s Bachelet commented that the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Chile and Argentina, “as others we have signed subsequently with Argentina, shows our firm conviction and determination to continue working through dialogue, cooperation and integration, which we believe is the way to have understanding between states.”
Presidents Jorge Videla of Argentina and Augusto Pinochet of Chile were at the brink of war in December 1978 over a territorial dispute involving the Beagle channel and three small islands when John Paul II made a last-minute appeal for peace.
Both leaders agreed to a peace-treaty process, which began in January 1979 in Montevideo, Uruguay. After more than five years, the treaty was signed at the Vatican in 1984, which gave the islands to Chile, but maritime rights to Argentina.