Abortion activists interrupted Mass at the Cathedral of the Chilean capital Santiago the evening of July 25, destroying confessionals and defaming several side altars with blasphemous graffiti.
“We were celebrating the feast of St. James the Apostle, with the mayor in attendance, and offering thanks to so many Catholics who serve the public, in an atmosphere of peace and recollection when protestors suddenly came in,” said Bishop Pedro Ossandón Buljevic, an auxiliary bishop of the Santiago de Chile archdiocese.
“The truth is that we are always for dialogue, for civilized debate. We believe in the God-given gift of reason.”
“Therefore we invite everyone to protest in whichever way they wish, but that they do so with respect for the law, for democracy, and the for the dignity of others.”
Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello was saying Mass on the eve of the feast of St. James, the city's patron and namesake, when the activists unexpectedly stormed the cathedral at the conclusion of a pro-abortion march.
Abortion is illegal in Chile, even in cases of rape. Of the country's population, around 85 percent is Christian.
The current government opposes liberalization of abortion access. Last year, Chile's senate rejected three bills easing the absolute ban, the Associated Press reports.
The faithful present at the Mass, including Santiago’s mayor, Carolina Toha, prevented the activists from reaching the main altar.
With help from the faithful, police who in riot gear were able to remove the protestors from the cathedral, dispersing the crowd outside as well, and making several arrests. The protestors had barricaded themselves in with pews.
Isabel Carcamo of the Right to Choose organization told CNN Chile that although she was present during the incident and understood “the people’s anger” against the Church because abortion is not legal in the country, she did not agree with the violent attack.
The protests came ahead of a presidential election, to be held in November.
Bishop Ossandón commented, “at this time when Chile is getting ready to choose candidates for the presidency and for congress, let us all please respect the rule of law.”
Chilean president Sebastian Pinera said the vandalism was "not respecting that rights of others" and that "they're not tolerant and are contradicting their own views."
The protestors destroyed a confessional and spray-painted blasphemies on side altars and statues, such as “Mary wanted to abort” and “abortion is the best.”
Police said charges would be filed against several protestors for destroying a national monument. Church officials said they would also file a lawsuit against those responsible for the vandalism.