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Fresno Larraín, Juan Francisco (1914–2004)

Fresno Larraín, Juan Francisco (1914–2004)

Juan Francisco Fresno Larraín (b. 26 July 1914; d. 14 October 2004), archbishop of Santiago, Chile (1983–1990), during the last years of the military government of General Augusto Pinochet.

Born in Santiago, Fresno was educated in the diocesan seminary and at Gregorian University in Rome, where he received a bachelor's degree in canon law. Ordained on 18 December 1937, he served in the influential posts of vice rector of the minor seminary in Santiago and as an adviser to the reformist lay group Catholic Action, which was particularly active in Chile from the 1940s into the 1960s. In 1958 Pope Pius XII named him bishop of the recently created diocese of Copiapó, and in 1967 Pope Paul VI named him archbishop of the more important archdiocese of La Serena.

Fresno participated in the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), supporting greater involvement of the Catholic Church in social justice activities. He also influenced the deliberations of the second Conference of Latin American Bishops (CELAM) in 1968, which translated into Latin American terms the general mandates of Vatican II to promote peace, justice, and human rights.

On 3 May 1983 he was named archbishop of Santiago and two years later was elevated to the rank of cardinal. While he had publicly justified the coup that brought Pinochet to power in 1973, ten years later he engaged in negotiations to speed the return of elected government. In addition, he traveled widely to generate pressure within and without Chile to encourage Pinochet to resign. While his efforts were not successful, they did contribute to the ultimate defeat of Pinochet in a 1988 plebiscite and to the return of democratic government in 1990. On 30 March 1990 Fresno resigned as cardinal archbishop of Santiago. He lost the right to participate in the papal conclave when he turned eighty years old in 2004. He died in his home in Santiago that same year.

See alsoCatholic Action; Catholic Church: The Modern Period; Pinochet Ugarte, Augusto.


Escudero, Jaime Caiceo. Cardenal Juan Francisco Fresno Larraín: Un Pastor para Chile. Santiago de Chile: Universidad Católica Clas Cañas, 1996.

Smith, Brian H. The Church and Politics in Chile: Challenges to Modern Catholicism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982.

                                Margaret E. Crahan

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