Archbishop of Lima: Church concerned about violence in Peru
By Stefano Leszczynski
As the situation in Peru continues to remain tense, Archbishop Carlos Castillo Mattasoglio of Lima said the Catholic Church has launched numerous appeals for dialogue and is asking authorities to take into account the legitimate demands of the poor.
The country has been wracked by massive demonstrations against incumbent President Dina Boluarte and congressmen that have left at least 48 people dead over the past month.
The demonstrators are demanding the resignation of all state offices and the calling of new elections after the ousting and arrest of President-elect Pedro Castillo in December.
Notwithstanding repression of the anti-government protests has been extremely harsh, rallies have spread to all the major cities in Peru and last Thursday also erupted in the tourist area of Cusco.
Who is Pedro Castillo?
Pedro Castillo, a socialist and trade unionist from one of the poorest areas of the Andes, was elected in June 2021, winning over a large number of candidates.
Considered an outsider in Peruvian politics and far from the centres of power in Lima, he had raised high expectations of social and economic improvement among the poorer segment of the rural areas with an indigenous majority.
After taking office, his figure was quickly tarnished by a series of scandals, infighting within the majority and strong opposition in Congress.
He was dismissed in mid-December 2022 after attempting to dissolve parliament, but his supporters consider him a victim of the political and corrupt elites that dominate the Peruvian political scene.
The position of the Church
The Peruvian Church has taken a stance in the face of the rampant violence in the country, launching numerous appeals for dialogue and a return to a situation of normality, and calling on the authorities in power to take into account the demands of the weaker sections of the population.
Speaking to Vatican News, the Archbishop of Lima, Monsignor Carlos Castillo Mattasoglio, described the reality of Peru as tragic due to increasing polarisation fuelled by the lack of institutional cohesion, deep-rooted corruption and the inability to provide adequate responses to the legitimate demands of the poorest.
Causes of impoverishment
Archbishop Mattasoglio emphasised the destabilising role of those with ambitions and interests in the management of the country's important economic and financial resources.
The Church therefore, he said, denounced the mafia groups and the power wielded by a few large Peruvian families that have put entire areas in check, especially by taking advantage of reforms aimed at decentralising power.
Narcotrafficking and corruption, he highlighted, are two of the great evils that have led to the impoverishment of large sections of society and growing exasperation among indigenous communities.
The appeal of the Peruvian bishops
The Bishops of Peru have gathered at the current session of the Bishops' Conference precisely to consider the possibility of making a series of proposals that would allow dialogue to be relaunched or at least reduce the social rift that has been created.
The only possible path, said Archbishop Mattasoglio, is always that of mediation and dialogue, setting aside prejudices, ambitions, and mutual accusations.
He lamented "a very serious educational problem" in Peruvian society that requires the capacity for a longer-term vision.
Our appeal, the prelate concluded, is that we must use all means to get the parties to clarify the fundamental points and get us all to work together as brothers, as Pope Francis says in his encyclical: “This is the central thing.”