A religious congregation voiced sorrow and called for greater respect for faith after the iconic Church of National Gratitude in Santiago de Chile was hit with a firebomb attack by young people this week. According to the Salesian Congregation in charge of administering the church, the incident occurred just a few minutes after the end of Mass on Aug. 22, around 8:05 a.m.
A pair of youths entered through the church’s central entrance. They had their faces covered and were wearing white, and threw Molotov cocktails against the inside wooden doors. The sacristan and janitor of the Alameda Salesian school located on the side of the church became aware of the attack and immediately came with fire extinguishers, which prevented the doors from being totally consumed and the fire from spreading to the rest of the building. The police arrived within a few minutes and helped secure the area.
“This new attack is the latest in a sequence of incidents of violence this church has suffered in recent days,” the Salesian congregation said. These attacks include vandalism such as people throwing stones at the building. The Salesian congregation reiterated its rejection of violence, and its pain at the recent attacks.
“We believe that not only is the historic heritage of the city being damaged, but also freedom of religion is being attacked and a sacred place violated where many people come to encounter God.” One of the most serious attacks the Church of National Gratitude suffered was in June 2016, when in the middle of a demonstration, several masked men entered the church, removed a statue of Christ Crucified and destroyed it in the middle of the street.