By Francesca Merlo
In a statement, the Catholic bishops of Chile express solidarity with “all the faithful of the Archdiocese of Santiago”, where a parish was looted and desecrated. They also express closeness to “the communities and pastors” of the other cities in which places of worship have been targeted in violent protests.
On Friday, hooded protesters looted a Catholic Church, in Santiago. An estimated 75,000 people had gathered in a nearby square to protest against the ruling government of President Sebastian Piñera.
Crowds stormed La Asuncion Church, removing pews, statues and other religious icons to then set them on fire.
In their statement, the bishops write that the “attack on temples and places of prayer, without any respect for God or for those who believe in Him, causes us pain”. “Temples and other places of worship”, they continue “are sacred”.
From turnstile to arson
Chile has seen 24 days of violent protests after President Piñera increased the price of metro tickets. Protests, which began with students jumping the turnstiles, quickly turned into clashes, looting and arson. Over 20 people have died and the Chilean Red Cross estimates that 2,500 others have been injured.
The bishops say in their statement that the violent actions of some “prevents us from giving the right amount of attention to the claims of the majority of the Chilean people, who yearn for real and peaceful solutions”.
Protesters have been fighting for improvements in education, health care and the pension system whilst demanding the resignation of President Piñera. Chile is considered one of Latin America’s richest but most socially unequal countries.
Opposing injustice and violence
The bishops state that “along with so many Chileans, we radically oppose injustice and violence, condemning it in all its forms.”
They appeal to authorities to “apply the law and exercise it with all of the resources of a democratic state” so as to bring order and “re-establish civic coexistence”.
“People are not only tired of injustice,” reads the statement, “they are also tired of violence”. Finally, the bishops say that, along with many Chileans, they are awaiting the dialogue needed to help rebuild the necessary social foundations.