Colombian authorities dismantle Catholic chapel at airport, sparking controversy

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff


The former Catholic chapel in El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá, Colombia. The airport announced Aug. 26, 2022, that the space would be modified and used as a place “where all religions will be welcome.” / Photo credit: Pexels

Denver Newsroom, Aug 30, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

The bishop of Fontibón, Juan Vicente Córdoba, decried that at the request of the Secretariat of Government of the Mayor’s Office of Bogotá, Colombia, the Catholic chapel located in El Dorado International Airport was dismantled this week, sparking intense controversy.

Fontibón is the Bogotá suburb where the airport is located.

The El Dorado airport announced Aug. 26 on social media that the space used as a Catholic chapel will be modified in the coming days and adapted “as a space for worship and neutral reflection. Where all religions will be welcome.”

In a letter sent to the clergy, Córboba explained that on April 11, the legal affairs office of OPAIN (a private company that manages the El Dorado airport by grant of the civil aviation administration) left “a written notification that by decision of the board of directors we were asked to hand over the premises.”

Two days later, during an in-person meeting between both parties, Córdoba learned that “the request had been made by the Secretariat of Government of the Mayor’s Office of Bogotá, invoking the Ministry of the Interior’s regulations regarding equality of religions in Colombia.”

Córdoba said that his lawyers presented “all kinds of arguments,” but the final agreement was “to remove all the signs, symbols, icons, and liturgical elements so that they could arrange the premises in a neutral way for all the religions.”

Despite being evicted, the bishop said they were able to get the 11 a.m. to noon time slot for the celebration of daily Mass.

“For our part, we removed all the furnishings and Catholic symbols and we acted in accordance with the law, but not before telling them that secularization and materialism are taking steps to put an end to the expressions of faith of a people that asks the Catholic Church to provide them the service of God’s grace through the Word and the sacraments,” Córdoba concluded.

On social media, former senator María del Rosario Guerra accused the mayor of Bogotá, Claudia Lopez, of “persecuting the Catholic Church and its faithful” and “restricting religious freedom with her demand” to “remove the Catholic chapel that for many years has been at the El Dorado airport.”

“What a bad precedent,” she stressed.

Samuel Ángel, spokesman for the national movement Ejército Provida (Pro-life Army) said that the government of President Gustavo Petro and Vice President Claudia López “intends to extinguish the faith of the faithful” with “totalitarianism.”

The two were sworn into office Aug. 7. Petro founded the leftist political party Humane Colombia in 2011 and is a former guerrilla fighter.

The new administration “intends to end the religious practice that propagates and defends freedom,” Ángel said, promising to “mount strong opposition.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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