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Research procedures and genealogical sources are different for each religion. It is helpful to understand the historical events that led to the creation of records in which your ancestors may be listed, such as parish registers.
Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholicism was the national religion of Chile before 1925 and continues to be a dominant force. Roman Catholicism was brought to the country by priests sent with the Spanish colonizers. The Catholic missions in Chile were administered by Spain’s Department of Colonial Affairs, a secular body. Education was entirely the responsibility of the church during the colonial period. A complete separation between the church and state was not made until the constitutional reform of 1925. At this time nearly 90 percent of the population claim to be Catholic.
The native Indians in the bishopric of Santiago were fully christianized and acculturated by the 17th century. In the diocese of Concepción, however, the Indians returned to their traditional beliefs and resisted attempts by Jesuits and Franciscans to establish missions among them. These Indians are referred to as Araucanos, or Mapuches.
Many books are available at public and private libraries that discuss the history of the Catholic Church in Chile and Latin America. Many books can also be found on this subject at the Family History Library. Some of these include:
- Araneda Bravo, Fidel. Historia de la iglesia en Chile (History of the Church in Chile). Santiago, Chile: Ed. Paulinas, 1986. (FHL book 983 K2a.)
- La provincia eclesiástica chilena: erección de sus obispados y división en parroquias (The Chilean Provincial Church: Erection of its Bishoprics and Division of Parishes). Friburgo de Besgovia, Germany: B. Herder, 1895. (FHL book 983 K2p; film 1162486 item 8.)
- Silva Cotapos, Carlos. Historia eclesiástica de Chile (Ecclesiastical History of Chile). Santiago, Chile: Imprenta de San José, 1925. (FHL book 983 K2s; film 0908643 item 2.)
Other sources for church history can be found in the Family History Library Catalog under:
CHILE - CHURCH HISTORY
Other Christian Denominations
Chile has one of the largest Protestant populations in Latin America. The first Anglican Church was built in Valparaíso in the 1850s to serve the local English community. During this same period of time, the Lutheran Church was established in the German settlements in the southern part of the country. These religions served the immigrant communities and did not spread to the Chilean Catholic communities.
The Methodist Church was brought to Chile at the end of the 19th century and was more successful in attracting Chilean members. Part of this group broke off to establish the Methodist Pentecostal Church. This and other Pentecostal churches are commonly known as canutos after the most famous of the pastors who first brought the church to Chile. Of the 500,000 Protestants in Chile in the early 1960s, most belonged to one of the many Pentecostal churches.
A constitutional amendment in 1871 extended freedom of worship in Chile. Since the constitutional reform of 1925, which separated church and state, non-Catholic religions have been on the increase.
Latter-day Saint families first moved to Chile in the early 1950s, and the first missionaries arrived in 1956. By the end of 1997, there were 462,000 LDS Church members in Chile.
Published books and articles can be found on the many different religious groups found in Chile. Some of these can be found at the Family History Library and other public and university libraries.
Examples of this type of book include:
- Acevedo Acevedo, Rodolfo Antonio. Los mormones en Chile: 30 años de la Iglesia de Jesucristo delos Santos de los Últimos Días, 1956–1986 (The Mormons in Chile: 30 years of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1956–1986). Santiago, Chile: Impresos y Publicaciones Cumora, 1990. (FHL book 983 H2aa.)
- Vergara, Ignacio. El Protestantismo en Chile (Protestantism in Chile). Santiago, Chile: Editorial del Pacífico, 1962. (FHL book 983 K2v.)