Chilean bishops condemned the actions of church looters who burned religious statues and paintings in the streets, calling for an end to violence.
On Friday, masked rioters in the country’s capital of Santiago looted the La Asuncion church. They ransacked the interior, defacing the inside with spray paint and profaning the tabernacle. Stripped bare, pews, paintings, and statues of Jesus and Mary were taken and burned in the streets as part of a barricade before the rioters clashed with police.
The Episcopal Conference of Chile released a statement afterwards calling for an end to violence and condemning the actions of the church looters. President of the Latin American Episcopal Council Héctor Vidarte expressed his solidarity and closeness with the faithful affected:
“We are in solidarity with apostolic administrator Msgr. Celestino Aós and all of the faithful of the Archdiocese of Santiago following the sacking and profanation of Assumption of Mary parish. Likewise with the communities and pastors of other churches and places of worship of various faiths who were attacked in various cities.”
Vidarte said that “churches and other places of worship are sacred,” and expressed the bishops regret over the “mistreatment of people, the constant pillaging and violence, from wherever it comes. The attack on churches and places of prayer causes us pain, with no respect for God and not by people who believe in Him.”
He called for Chilean authorities to apply “the law and exercise it with all of the resources of a democratic state to re-establish civic coexistence” as “the violent can only impede us in paying adequate attention to the just complaints on the part of the majority of the Chilean people who are seeking realistic and just solutions.”
“People are not only tired of injustice, they are also tired of violence and the great majority are anxiously awaiting a respectful dialogue that can rebuild the social fabric.”
For nearly four weeks, there has been mass protest and violent unrest in Chile over increased cost of living, taxes, and income inequality. Called the “worst civil unrest” since Pinochet’s dictatorship, nearly 2,500 people have been injured and 19 have died.
Read the full statement here.