By Vatican News staff writer
Archbishop Fernando Chomali of Concepción has denounced the shooting of two minors by a police officer at a residence for minors in state care on Wednesday.
According to news sources, two Chilean Police officers (Carabineros) were called to the Carlos Macera foster home in Tahualcano to accompany an ambulance carrying a child with a medical emergency. Upon arrival, the officers were attacked with stones and, in retaliation, one of them fired his service weapon several times, hitting and injuring the two minors.
Following the shocking incident which sparked immediate outcry from human and children’s rights groups, the Chilean Ombudsman’s Office for Children called for an in-depth investigation into the shooting on premises that should provide protection for minors.
Both children injured in the incident have been taken to the hospital for treatment.
A ‘sick’ society
Reflecting on the incident, Archbishop Chomali published a set of reflections highlighting the need for rethinking the country’s response to the plight of its vulnerable citizens.
“What we experienced at the Carlos Marcera Residence should lead us to recognize that the Chilean society is sick,” the Archbishop lamented. “It is sick with indifference, individualism, lack of concern for others, and sick with a materialistic conception of life that has been impoverishing the state.”
Poor health system
Topping his list of reflections, Archbishop Chomali denounced the “injustice” present in the country’s public health system which makes the quality of health care received depend on the economic resources available. He lamented that despite great efforts, Chile’s health system does not have the sufficient capacity to attend to serious health cases.
It has been demonstrated once again, said the Archbishop, that despite the efforts made by the National Service for Minors (Sename) and the collaborating institutions, “the conditions are not in place to help young people with mental pathologies and high personal, family, social-economic, health and emotional deficiencies.” Many young people, he noted, “often find it difficult to find enrolment in the school system.”
Proper training for personnel
The Archbishop also stressed the importance of having trained personnel with specific competencies among the ranks of the Forces of Order and Public Security to help with emergencies such as the one that required the presence of the officers at the foster home.
He noted that the entrance of armed personnel to the residence where there are vulnerable people demonstrates the absence of adequate protocols for complex situations like these, and a poor knowledge of the reality of the minors living there.
Care for the “forgotten”
Archbishop Chomali also decried “society's indifference” regarding care for children in vulnerable situations who end up in foster homes, often through the courts.
Describing them as “forgotten ones”, he called on authorities to provide specialized attention to children under 18 years of age. He also seized the opportunity to encourage increased budgets for residences that take care of minors.
If we want these unfortunate events to never happen again, said Archbishop Chomali, “we must strengthen family ties, overcome the difficulties that lead these young people to have no horizon in life, provide sufficient resources as a result of consistent public policies, and promote social justice.
Likewise, he continued, “we need a spirit of collaboration and solidarity with those who, with much effort, sacrifice, dedication and vocation, take care of those that many do not want to see, pretend do not exist and systematically close the doors to them.”
The Archbishop also called for the investigation of the shooting incident and insisted that those responsible be brought to justice “as appropriate under the rule of law.”
The Church in service of vulnerable minors
Archbishop Chomali noted that for sixty years, the Ricardo Espinosa Children’s City Foundation, born in “the heart of the Church of Concepción, has rendered a great service by working closely with children and young people in situations of social risk.
He affirmed that the institution will continue to do its work until the state “fulfills its duty to care for and protect these very vulnerable people and guarantees them the right to adequate care and support in all aspects of their lives.”
Currently, the foundation caters for 1,195 children and adolescents.