SANTIAGO – Unidentified assailants hurled firebombs early Monday at a Catholic church outside the capital, damaging the main entrance and some stained glass windows in the seventh attack of this type in reaction to Pope Francis’s recent visit to Chile, officials said.
Several individuals threw at least seven firebombs before dawn at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Lo Espejo, a city located southeast of Santiago.
Similar attacks occurred in Santiago before, during and after the papal visit last week, and attacks also occurred in southern Chile, where three helicopters, four churches, a school and a farm building were destroyed.
The protests during Francis’s visit focused on cases of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests and claims by Indians to ancestral lands.
Capt. Rodrigo Perez, a spokesman for the Carabineros militarized police force, told reporters that the assailants did not leave flyers or graffiti, and the initial investigation has not yielded tips on possible suspects.
The Rev. Modesto Nuńez, who is the parish priest at Sacred Heart of Jesus, told Radio Cooperativa that he did not hear anything when the attack occurred because he was sleeping in a different area of the church.
“I think that, when the firebombs were thrown, a passerby called the Carabineros,” said the Spanish-born priest, who arrived in Chile eight years ago. “Firefighters came and they put the flames out.”
“I don’t know what the (attackers’) motives were, because they didn’t leave any pamphlets or slogans scrawled on the walls, nothing,” the priest said. “Maybe it was just to cause damage and get attention, perhaps because of the pope’s visit, or just to keep protesting.”