Date of publication: 26/10/2020

Fires at Churches are a Threat to the Expression of Religious Freedom

Council General International

The Council General condemns any kind of religious intolerance 

The appalling and unacceptable acts of arson are sweeping across religious temples throughout the world; in particular, the recent cases of Catholic parishes and chapels being burned down, which make us reflect on the rise of religious intolerance.

One of the Catholic temples recently vandalised was the parish of La Asuncion (Chile), built in 1876 by the Daughters of Charity (DC), a branch of the Vincentian Family. The torched Neo-Gothic temple, influenced by the Sainte-Chapelle (royal chapel) in Paris, was regarded as an “architectural jewel” of the Chilean capital.

Pursuant to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs, and this right is necessary to protect public safety. As a member of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the SSVP also advocates these same principles.

Furthermore, in many places around the world, religious persecution and prejudice against Christian beliefs are commonplace, thus increasing the number of refugees.

We, as members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, committed to charity, solidarity, respect and life, cannot stand idly by faced with these attacks occurring in different parts of the world, which include acts of arson, vandalism, desecration, looting and mockery.

Obviously, we are all Church; nevertheless, Christian buildings are essential for the community to express their faith, where sacraments are celebrated, where the preaching of God’s word is heard from faithful ministers. And these are the buildings where ministries, initiatives and services are fostered, just like the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which promotes its events and meetings. Hence, preserving churches is safeguarding faith.

The Council General International of the Society of St Vincent de Paul condemns any attack on the Catholic faith, especially these criminal fires, and expects that perpetrators will be prosecuted, in accordance with the applicable law of each country.

Attacks on churches may cause extensive damage; but this will never undermine the faith or extinguish the flame of Christ which stirs the hearts of all God’s children. Social and popular manifestations are welcome, provided that they are peaceful and respectful.

Let us pray for the conversion of sinners and their redemption, and may God always protect Their Church, delivering us from evil. “That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18).

Fellow member Renato Lima de Oliveira

16th President General