SANTIAGO, Chile (CWN) - Cardinal Carlos Oviedo Cabada of Santiago, a key figure in the Church in South America, made a surprise announcement this week that Pope John Paul has accepted his resignation submitted as a consequence of an unnamed degenerative disease.

      The 70-year-old cardinal played a key role in the Chile's political process of transition from General Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship to democratic government and was regarded as the person who contributed most in a process of "justice without revenge" by proposing and leading the Commission of Justice and Reconciliation that investigated human rights violations during the dictatorship.

      Cardinal Oviedo told reporters that because of a "degenerative disease" he has submitted his resignation and suggested that Auxiliary Bishop Sergio Valech be named Apostolic Administrator of Chile's most important archdiocese. "It is painful to end my apostolic mission in such an unexpected way, but it is clear that Jesus Christ wants me to join him in another ministry, the one of the Cross," said Cardinal Oviedo. "I joyfully accept the participation in this ministry and thank the Lord for it."

      He explained that he has a disease of the muscles that will affect his capacity to move and breathe. "It could happen in the short, medium, or long term, only God knows, but I don't want to have the Church in Santiago dependant on this process," he added. The cardinal, a Mercedarian, will move to the same monastery in Santiago in which he lived after he was ordained.

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February 19, 1998 volume 9, no. 36          DAILY CATHOLIC