Bolivian lay council repudiates attacks on the Church, demands government restoration of order

By Diego Lopez Marina for CNA

Red paint is splashed on the cathedral of Santa Cruz de la Sierra – Members of Mujeres Creando. / Graciela Arandia de Hidalgo – Archdiocese of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, Nov 3, 2021 / 16:19 pm (CNA).

The president of the Jurisdictional Council of Laity of the Archdiocese of Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia, Abdel Guzmán López, condemned Monday the recent attacks on church buildings in the country and called on the authorities to restore order.

“The Jurisdictional Council of Laity of Santa Cruz, emphatically repudiates the acts of intolerance that have resulted in violence against our Holy Catholic Church,” says the Nov. 1 statement.

The vandalism occurred after the Church was falsely accused of intervening to prevent a pregnant 11 year old rape victim from procuring a legal abortion.

On Oct. 31, a group of feminist activists of the Mujeres Creando collective entered the Basilica of San Francisco in La Paz and committed “the very serious act of interrupting the Eucharistic celebration” which was aggravated by “damaging the infrastructure of the church,” Guzmán said.

The same day, a similar act occurred in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, where four activists from the same organization vandalized the cathedral, splashing the façade with red paint while the local archbishop was offering Mass.

The women also displayed a yellow banner reading “hypocritical and vile  church, you force a girl to give birth.”

On Oct. 27, the People’s Ombudsman for Bolivia, Nadia Cruz, together with officials from her office led a march to the offices of the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference in La Paz where some of the participants vandalized the building, tagging the walls with graffiti and sticking signs with pro-abortion messages on them.

The attacks took place a few days after some Bolivian government institutions and the Bolivian and international press accused the Church in Bolivia of having intervened in the decision of an 11-year-old girl, who was pregnant from rape, to refuse to have an abortion, continue with the pregnancy and be transferred to a shelter.

Abortion is illegal in Bolivia except in cases of bride kidnapping not actually followed by marriage, rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is considered to be in danger.

Several organizations, including the People’s Ombudsman’s office, which is charged under the constitution with defending human rights, tried to get the minor to have an abortion; however, the girl and her mother objected.

The local Church has flatly denied that it intervened or pressured the girl to keep the baby. The girl’s grandfather has been charged with the crime and is currently in custody.

Víctor Hugo Valda, the bishops’ Delegate for Health of the Archdiocese of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister news agency, that the local Church “from the beginning has shown closeness and concrete support” to the girl and her mother and lamented that the Church has been criticized “for offering material aid to help the girl with a home, education, medicine and psychological treatment.”

In his statement, Guzmán said that the laity are “witnesses of the strong and courageous attitude of our Church of Santa Cruz, in defense of life from conception to natural death.”

“This is without a doubt an attitude based on Christian principles and values, an inalienable task that constantly moves our conscience and our faith, before a world eager for light and hope. Our Church will always be proactive and purposeful in the defense of life, through a responsible and prudent position, with a merciful and supportive attitude, in the face of intransigence and lack of respect,” he stressed.

Regarding the government’s passivity in the face of attacks against the Church, Guzmán demanded that the authorities “guarantee the fundamental rights established in the Political Constitution of the State: Life, freedom and freedom of expression, since they are inherent to human dignity and human nature, and they are the basis of all peaceful and fraternal coexistence, which guarantees the well-being of all.”

“Therefore we ask the authorities, enjoined  by the law, to restore order, carry out justice, and to speak out as soon as possible in the face of these deplorable events,” he added.

The Council of Laity also made “an impassioned call to all Bolivians to demand the right that we all have to live in peace, respecting our differences, respecting faith, ways of thinking, with tolerance and respect, with a high degree of communication and dialogue.”

“We are men and women of faith, who courageously work and fight day by day, for a better future for our families, we are called to be salt and light in the world, with the responsible task of procuring the foundations of a more humane, just and solidary society, ” the Council of Laity statement concluded.


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