Hooded vandals had dragged out the pews, statues and sacred images into the street, smashing them and setting them on fire.
An out of control mob on Nov. 8 attacked and ransacked a Catholic church in Santiago, the capital of Chile, which has been in the grips of violent protests. The parish priest of Assumption Church, Father Pedro Narbona, on Nov. 10 spoke with parishioners, who had gathered to pray and begin the cleaning up of the church.
In an effort to console the faithful, some of whom could not hold back their tears, Father Pedro said: “The Church is built not so much out of physical materials, but rather of the living stones, which we are, each and every one of us. We are the living stones and this is the fundamental truth.”
He urged those present “not to slip into the cycle of hatred that can only end up poisoning souls.”
They congregation celebrated a simple ceremony of atonement, during which the faithful were able to kiss the damaged and desecrated crucifix and sing hymns to the Virgin Mary, to whom the month of November is dedicated in Chile.
Hooded vandals had dragged out the pews, statues and sacred images into the street, smashing them and setting them on fire. They also sprayed graffiti and abusive slogans on the inside walls of the church as well as on its doors.
This is not the first time that a Catholic Church has been attacked in Chile. Father Narbona, who serves as the ecclesiastical assistant to Chilean branch of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), reported that vandals had tried to set another church on fire, but that he managed to call the fire department in time; the Church of the True Cross, Vera Cruz, suffered damage to its façade.
Outside the capital, there have likewise been two consecutive attacks on the cathedral in Valparaiso, at the end of October, plus another on the parish of Saint Teresa of the Andes in Villa Alfredo Lorca, in Punta Arenas.
“We are deeply concerned and unhappy at the turn the violence has taken in recent days, even affecting the Church. We have witnessed a new act of desecration against a Catholic parish, which is all the more painful to us in ACN, as a Catholic pastoral foundation,” commented Maria Covarrubias, the president of ACN Chile.
“We ask your prayers at this difficult time for our ecclesiastical assistant and his parishioners, for peace in our country and that God may convert the hearts of those who have committed these lamentable acts,” she added in a message to ACN donors around the world.
In a video published on the You Tube channel of the archdiocese, the apostolic administrator of Santiago de Chile, Archbishop Celestino Aós, expressed his solidarity with Father Narbona and condemned the desecration of the parish church of the Assumption.
This was his message: “To you, dear Father and to all your Catholic faithful in the parish of the Assumption I wish to express our closeness and solidarity in your suffering. To all of you, dear brothers and sisters in the faith, I repeat the words of the Apostle: ‘do not allow yourselves to be overcome by evil, but conquer evil with good.’”
At the same time he issued an appeal for peace: “With all the strength of our voice, we appeal to all our fellow countrymen and countrywomen to put a stop to all the violence.”
“May those who are deceived into believing in the apparent effectiveness and triumph of violence instead adopt the path of dialogue and engage in the search for solutions to the problems, by putting forward their own visions.”
Demonstrators took to the streets last month to protest against the high cost of living and income inequality. Hoodlums on the radical left appear to have hijacked the demonstrations.
This article was first published by Aid to the Church in Need and is republished here with kind permission. For more information about ACN visit www.churchinneed.org