The attackers also spray painted the sidewalk with this message: "The only church that illuminates is the one that burns, the one in flames. Hah-Hah No to the Pope."
The Church in Chile has been plagued by protests, many centering around the case of Father Fernando Karadima a once-popular Chilean priest convicted by the Church in 2011 of sexually abusing minors but, controversially, not laicized. Other protests have been related to the political status of the Mapuche, Chile's largest indigenous group. Still another group of protesters attacked the apostolic nunciature, the Vatican Embassy in Chile, on Jan. 12, opposing the cost of the papal visit to the Chilean government.
The Diocese of San José condemned the Melipilla attack in a Facebook post, and noted that "Saint Augustine Church is the only building on the national register of historical places in the city of Melipilla."
"We repudiate this act of hatred against the faith. Today we ask you to raise up a special prayer for those who committed this act of clear religious intolerance," the diocese said.
Bio Bio Radio reported that the fire did not do a lot of damage and there were no injuries, since the church was closed down after a 2010 earthquake and is still being remodeled.
Local police are conducting an investigation to find the whereabouts of those involved.