File No. 944/108.

The American Chargé d’Affaires at Lima to the Secretary of State.

No. 314.]

Sir: I have the honor to report that with the closure of certain churches in the Provinces of Tacna and Arica, the territory administered by Chile under the terms of the Treaty of Ancón, the political [Page 1177] struggle between the two countries regarding these provinces seems to have entered upon a new and especially irritating phase.

In countries where religious matters are so intimately a part not only of the national politics but also of the social life of the community, the closing of the churches of Tacna and the consequent interdiction of the religious services to which a large part of the population considers themselves entitled can not but be a matter of serious import.

I would recall to the Department that the Provinces of Tacna and Arica, while administered by Chilean officials under the laws of that Republic since the signing of the Treaty of Ancón have nevertheless remained within the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Peruvian See of Arequipa. The Papal authority has never approved of any measures tending to subvert the authority of the Bishop of Arequipa who, according to Chilean views at least, has always reserved these appointments for Peruvian prelates.

In line with the policy of nationalization they have pursued in these provinces, the Government of Chile invoked, some months ago for the first time rights granted them under the Treaty of Ancón, and demanded that every new ecclesiastical appointment in those provinces should submit to the regulations in force elsewhere in Chile, and that these appointments receive the vise of the Chilean authorities.

In the cases of the curates of Estigue, Belén, and Ceclpa, and more recently of Tacna and Tarapa, and within the last few days, those of Tarata and other parishes of the occupied provinces, after the ecclesiastics appointed by the Bishop of Arequipa had refused to submit to these formalities, their parishes were declared vacant and the churches closed by the Chilean Government.

As the Vatican appears resolved to maintain the old ecclesiastical prerogatives of the See of Arequipa, at least until the question of the political sovereignty of the provinces be definitely decided, and as the Chilean Government appears equally determined to persist in its present course, the resulting privations of the religious population of those provinces have brought about a peculiarly distressing state of affairs, and one which may tend to precipitate the long-deferred solution of the political differences centering about Tacna and Arica.

I have [etc.]

Wm. Penn Cresson.