In Chile, Archbishop Condemns Arson Attacks That Destroyed Catholic Churches

Clay Curtis
October 20, 2020

Tens of thousands of Chileans rallied in Santiago, still demanding constitutional changes a year after mass protests left dozens dead, but the peaceful event eventually descended into chaos, with clashes, looting and arson. The small Church of the Assumption that was totally destroyed was known as the "artists' parish".

Police stations were attacked as the authorities recorded 107 serious incidents nationwide while violence continued overnight, interior ministry undersecretary Juan Francisco Galli told reporters.

The dome of the church of Asuncion falls down burning in flames after being set on fire by demonstrators on the commemoration of the first anniversary of the social uprising in Chile, in Santiago, on October 18, 2020, as the country prepares for a landmark referendum. The referendum is the result of a political agreement that follows weeks of violent protests since past year.

The government of President Sebastian Pinera - one of the protesters' main targets - called on demonstrators to be peaceful and to respect coronavirus restrictions. "Those images not only impact and hurt in Chile, but also impact and hurt in other countries and other peoples of the world, especially Christian brothers". He then called on all Chileans of good will to stop the violence.

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Late Sunday, the Chilean bishops conference - long under fire for mishandling the clerical sexual abuse crisis - released a statement condemning the attacks on private property and looting, as well as the attacks on places of prayer, "sacred spaces dedicated to God and the charitable service of people".

"Let us also please not promote further hate, and may we be instruments of love, understanding, justice, and forgiveness", he said.

"These events over the past few hours in Santiago and other cities in Chile show that there are no limits to those that exacerbate violence", the Chilean bishops' conference said in an October 18 statement. Chile's police, which have come under fire by human rights groups for their fierce response to the 2019 demonstrations, could be seen watching from the fringes of the square. God does not want violence.

"We regret the suffering that the fires have caused to the parishioners, mainly the elderly, who have lived fundamental milestones of their lives in these churches", she said. "And we must condemn not only those who directly execute criminal violence, but also those who, in one way or another, promote, protect or justify it".

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