In what is being lamented as a heinous act of desecration, an emblematic Catholic church in Santiago de Chile was brutally attacked after a recent student march, with masked individuals stealing and smashing a large crucifix from the building.

"This is not the first time that they've attacked a church in downtown Santiago. Violence leads nowhere, it is very painful for us that they would attack the symbols of our beliefs, the symbols of our faith," said the Vicar of the Downtown Area of the Archdiocese of Santiago, Father Marek Burzawa.

The attack took place after a student march last week, called by the Confederation of Chilean Students to protest for improvements in the current educational system in the country. The march ended near The Church of National Gratitude.

Masked individuals, who have not been identified, forced open the side door to one of rooms in the church, which is normally used for wakes. They stole various items and took a large statue of Christ crucified out into the middle of Bernardo O'Higgins Avenue. There they raised it up and slammed it against the ground to destroy it. Part of the attack was caught on camera.

Father Galvarino Jofré, director of the Alameda Salesian Educational Center located next to the desecrated church, warned that protection for churches is inadequate before such events.

"We hope there'll be better protection and hopefully these demonstrations won't end in the same location. We're looking into legal action," he said.

Hours after the attack, the new Minister of the Interior Mario Fernández went to The Church of National Gratitude to express his solidarity, and announced that the administration will file a complaint, because "these are very troubling signs and the Government is not going to skirt them."

More in Americas

"I want to express the government's condemnation of such acts, regardless that it has to do with religious worship, it's a very troubling symptom," the official told the media.

"I'm not speaking as a Catholic, I'm speaking as the Interior Minister of this situation, all Chileans need to work to prevent our young people from going around spreading this kind of behavior," he said.

The Auxiliary Bishop of Santiago, Fernando Ramos, thanked Fernández for his visit and stressed that "our churches are open, they are places of worship to come and praise God and we don't want to lock ourselves in so those who want to terrorize Chileans with violence achieve a success they don't deserve."

Photo credit: Lars Hallstrom via