On the eve of Pope Francis' visit to Chile, an attack on a church was reported in the city of Melipilla, an hour outside of Santiago. This was the sixth attack on Catholic
rnchurches in protest of the pontiff's visit.

Local media reported that around 1:00 am on Sunday, masked individuals threw an explosive at St. Augustine Church, damaging the main door and part of the entrance. Police and firemen responded to the scene.

ACTUALIZADO + FOTOS | Iglesia de Melipilla sufre ataque incendiario en la víspera de la visita papal https://t.co/PUveGqBmHG pic.twitter.com/3ke44Bj3UM

rn— BioBioChile (@biobio) January 14, 2018

The attackers also spray painted the sidewalk with this message: “The only church that illuminates is the one that burns, the one in flames. Hah-Hah No to the Pope.”

The Church in Chile has been plagued by protests, many centering around the case of Father Fernando Karadima a once-popular Chilean priest convicted  by the Church in 2011 of sexually abusing minors but, controversially, not laicized. Other protests have been related to the political status of the Mapuche, Chile’s largest indigenous group. Still another group of protesters attacked the apostolic nunciature, the Vatican Embassy in Chile, on Jan. 12, opposing the cost of the papal visit to the Chilean government.

The Diocese of San José condemned the Melipilla attack in a Facebook post, and noted that “Saint Augustine Church is the only building on the national register of historical places in the city of Melipilla.”

“We repudiate this act of hatred against the faith. Today we ask you to raise up a special prayer for those who committed this act of clear religious intolerance,” the diocese said.

Bio Bio Radio reported that the fire did not do a lot of damage and there were no injuries, since the church was closed down after a 2010 earthquake and is still being remodeled.

Local police are conducting an investigation to find the whereabouts of those involved.

Prior to this attack, three other Catholic churches in Santiago were attacked in the early hours of Jan. 12 and suspicious devices were found at two others.

The Archdiocese of Santiago expressed its deep sorrow for those attacks, and said that they do not represent “the feeling of the vast majority of the population.”

“We are deeply pained by these incidents which contradict the spirit of peace which animates the pope's visit to the country,” the archdiocese said.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.