The Cathedral of Saltillo, also dedicated to St. James the Greater, became news on Pentecost Sunday this year.
It wasn’t because it’s one of the architectural jewels of the Mexican state of Coahulia and recognized as one of the tallest cathedrals in the country, but because of a curious incident in which the protagonists were bees.
According to local newspaper Zócalo, on the morning of Sunday, June 5—the Solemnity of Pentecost—a swarm of European bees attacked the people who were attending morning Mass at the cathedral of Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila in northern Mexico.
Local law enforcement agencies and first responders had to intervene to help evacuate the faithful who remained sheltered in the church.
Witnesses described to Zócalo how the faithful fleeing the church after being swarmed by the bees ended up filling part of the plaza in front of the cathedral.
The Diocese of Saltillo announced the suspension of Masses at the cathedral throughout the day as a preventive measure. Other media such as El Diario reported that the faithful who went to the church had to be redirected to other parishes in the area.
Meanwhile, outside, the street was cordoned off. Even the beekeepers of the Environmental Police of Saltillo had to be called in so that they could take charge of the situation.
What happened to the bees?
The goal of the authorities, besides helping to clear the area and assisting some who were stung, was to try and remove the bees. The task, El Diario reports, was not an easy one, as the swarm came from a hive deep inside the wall behind the cross.
It was then that the voice of Arón Durán, a beekeeper with the Environmental Police, came to the fore. He pointed out that the hive needed to be removed along with the queen bee and transferred to an apiary.
Ricardo Ríos, also from the Environmental Police, quoted by Zócalo, mentioned that European bees are not very aggressive. Their behavior was possibly a response to a perceived aggression. The hypothesis was reinforced by one of the workers at the church who said that someone had probably disturbed the hive.
Not the first time
Meanwhile, media such as Vanguardia reported on the following Wednesday, June 8, that the swarm has not yet been removed from the cathedral. However, the church was reopened to the public.
The director of the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Coahuila (INAH), Francisco Aguilar, described to Vanguardia the work being done to remove the hive — a task being carried out in conjunction with the Ecology and Environment office of Saltillo, Civil Protection (humanitarian aid and disaster prevention and management), and firefighters. The aim is to finally declare the building a safe zone after the bees are relocated.
Aguilar explained that this is not the first time that something similar has happened at this site with bees.
“Something similar had already happened, and Civil Protection responded. They removed part of the hive and covered it with paper and cardboard so as not to use any material that did not fit in with the building,” he said.
However, the bees returned to the site and rebuilt their hive. “What happened was that 8 to 10 times more bees came back and reestablished their hive there, that’s why the decision was made to close the church,” he added.
Insects with a biblical reputation
Curiously, this episode with the bees in Mexico took place on a date which, in addition to being Pentecost this year, was celebrated internationally as World Environment Day.
Bees are part of the rich and abundant “Common Home” (Laudato Sí). Indeed, they always enjoyed an excellent reputation in biblical times.
Beyond this particularity and the inconvenience that the incident may have caused the faithful, it’s worth remembering other characteristics of these small insects, such as their vital role as fertilizers in the natural environment—of course, without forgetting that it’s always best to avoid disturbing their hives.