Two Catholic churches have been set on fire as part of nationwide protests in Chile.
The Assumption of the Virgin Mary parish and San Francisco Borja church have both been severely damaged by fire with one of the churches having its spire set alight.
@SandraActa La iglesia de La Asunción, ubicada en las cercanías de la plaza Italia de Santiago de Chile, fue completamente incendiada este domingo en medio de una masiva manifestación social en la capital del país sureño, a un año del considerado "estallido social" del 2019. pic.twitter.com/DHcbD1wudu— 🇩🇴Sandra Acta 00 (@Sandra_Acta) October 19, 2020
Incendia iglesia en Chile 🇨🇱 ! Vandalismo y extremismo ! Padre, perdónalos, no saben lo que hacen. pic.twitter.com/a0CD2h2pk0— CarlosAlbornoz (@CarlosOAlbornoz) October 19, 2020
At least five people have been arrested.
Thousands of people took to the streets in Chile's capital on Sunday ahead of a referendum to rewrite the country's constitution next week.
Last year, there was a wave of mass demonstrations against the Government that resulted in the announcement of a referendum to replace the current constitution adopted during the country's military dictatorship that ended in 1990.
The reason behind the attacks is unclear. Some suggest it was to show general discontent against national institutions, as one of the churches is used by police officers to officiate events.
Others suggest it is the result of anger towards the Catholic church following accusations of child sexual abuse.
In a statement, Chilean Catholic leaders have condemned the church attacks and have called for peaceful demonstrations.
"Let us never justify any violence. Violence is bad, and whoever sows violence reaps destruction, pain and death," said Archbishop Celestino Aos of Santiago.
"Those images not only impact and hurt in Chile but also impact and hurt in other countries and other peoples of the world, especially Christian brothers" he added.
If the referendum to reform the constitution succeeds next Sunday, the country will start a two-year process to rewrite it.