Santiago, Chile, Nov 12, 2019 / 23:01 pm
Several churches across Chile have been attacked and looted amid anti-government protests in the country.
The demonstrations began in mid-October in Santiago over a now-suspended increase in subway fares.
Other regions joined in the protests, expanding their grievances to inequality and the cost of healthcare.
Protesters broke into Santiago's La Asuncion parish Nov. 8, hauling out pews, confessionals, and statues – which they defaced – to build a barricade. They set the barricade on fire before clashing with police, and sprayed anti-Catholic graffiti on the walls, pillars, and altar of the church.
The next day, the Chilean bishops said that “with many Chileans we are radically opposed to injustice and to violence, we condemn them in all their forms and we hope that the tribunals will identify those responsible and sanction them.”
“The violent protesters only prevent us from looking with due attention to the just claims of the majority of the Chilean people who yearn for real and peaceful solutions … the people are not only tired of injustice, of also of violence, and the great majority hope for dialogue with respect to the reconstruction of the social fabric.”
On Nov. 10, attackers in Talca forced open the doors of the Mary Help of Christians shrine, where they destroyed religious images and then carried them into the streets along with the church's pews to set them on fire and erect barricades. Before the Carabineros de Chile arrived at the scene, the attackers desecrated the tabernacle.
At a Nov. 12 press conference, Fr. Pedro Pablo Cuello, director of the Salesian presence in Talca, said that “Chile needs to grow, needs to be reconciled, with peace, with justice and equity … This is a desecration of the very face of Jesus.”
Bishop Galo Fernández Villaseca, auxiliary bishop of Santiago and apostolic administrator of Talca, said he was “impacted and moved by the violence one is experiencing which is intensifying in the country and among us. These are not just material damages, it's an attitude of discord and which attacks the deepest sentiments of a person, our religious sentiments. The desecration of the Blessed Sacrament hurts us deeply.”