By Devin Watkins
On the night of 12 December, a group of unidentified vandals entered the Church of Our Lady of Valvanera, in the city of Pitalito, in the southeastern part of Colombia.
They broke open the Tabernacle, and stole the ciborium and monstrance, along with several other religious objects. The thieves also threw the consecrated hosts on the floor.
Attack on mystery of faith
In response, the Bishop of Garzón, Fabio Duque Jaramillo, released a statement on Tuesday decrying the desecration of the Eucharist.
“In the name of the Catholic Church, I raise my voice in protest and condemnation for the desecration of the church and the Tabernacle,” he said, calling it “an act which wounds all Catholics of the Diocese of Garzón and the universal Church, because we see the central mystery of our faith under attack: the Eucharist, the presence of God in our midst and the extension of the mystery of human redemption.”
Rights trampled upon
The Bishop added that the event represented a “serious violation of the people’s religious rights.”
He urged civil authorities to investigate the incident.
“Government authorities and civil representatives should not underestimate the damage these attacks have on the feelings and faith of Catholics,” he said. “When the rights of God are trampled upon with impunity, our human rights are also in danger.”
Excommunication and repentance
Bishop Duque reminded the perpetrators that, according to Canon Law (§1367), they have automatically been sanctioned with excommunication, so that they might be provoked to repent.
He also invited the faithful of Colombia to express their solidarity with the Catholic community of Pitalito.
“It is our duty, as Catholics,” he said, “to repudiate acts such as these.”
Mass of Reparation
The Church of Our Lady of Valvanera will remain closed for 15 days.
On 28 December, Bishop Duque will celebrate a Mass of Reparation, in response to this act of desecration.