Santiago (Agenzia Fides) - The fire that led to the total destruction of the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, a few meters from Piazza Italia, in the center of Santiago de Chile, marked the day of Sunday 18 October, a day of protests on the occasion of the first anniversary of the protests. Thousands of people were wounded and 30 dead in the riots and clashes with the police and the armed forces and put Sebastián Piñera's government in crisis. The church of the Assumption was totally destroyed, including the bell tower, which collapsed due to the flames set by local demonstrators.
A second fire was set in the San Francisco de Borja Church, the institutional police chapel in the center of the capital. A group of men broke into the sacred place, damaged the furnishings, and started a fire that was supposed to set the church on fire. However, the attempt was foiled by the fire fighters. The action resulted in five arrests.
The Chilean Bishops' Conference issued a statement on the same day. "The events of the past few hours in Santiago and other cities in Chile show that there are no limits for those who stir up violence. Unfortunately, there are also attacks, looting and attacks on churches and sacred buildings that are dedicated to God and are at the service of solidarity towards people. It hurts us to see a historic church in Santiago being destroyed and that destruction is celebrated. We express our special closeness to the parishes of the municipality of La Asunción and the institutional church of the Chilean police". "These violent groups, said the Bishops, "stand in contrast to many others who demonstrated peacefully. The vast majority of Chile wants justice and effective action to overcome inequality. They no longer want corruption or abuse, they expect decent, respectful and fair treatment. We believe that this majority does not support or justify violent actions that cause pain to individuals and families and harm entire communities that can no longer safely live in their homes or go to work".
In conclusion, the bishops encourage citizens to take part in the referendum scheduled for Sunday 25 October: "In democracies we speak with a free voice, according to our own conscience and not under the pressure of terror and violence", the document says . "We call on everyone to make a contribution in their families, at work and in social spaces that enables us to distance ourselves from irrational violence and to come closer to civil friendship", concludes the text. (CE) (Agenzia Fides, 20/10/2020)