Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Armed Mob Storms Church in Guatemala

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Armed Mob Storms Church in Guatemala

Article excerpt

Cofradia beat parishioners, force Maryknoll priest to flee

GUATEMALA CITY - About 1,000 pickax-wielding supporters of the Cofradia, the traditional Mayan religious group, stormed the church of Maryknoll priest Father Robert Crohan on March 6, attacked the 500 people inside and drove Crohan out of San Juan Alotenango, Sacatepequez.

"Men were hitting women, children were hitting children. It was horrible," said Augustine Rancho Chava, a construction worker and close friend of Crohan.

The Cofradia represent a fusion of Mayan and Catholic traditions. They were named by the president of Guatemala to, among other things, protect church idols after all foreign clergy were expelled in 1871. Foreign clergy were readmitted to Guatemala in 1942.

Tensions between the church and the Cofradia have been growing ever since. The Cofradia have been losing power during the past 30 years because of their rigid rules and the presence of other religious sects who offer social programs, said Maryknoll Regional Superior Ronald Hennessey.

Before the March 6 incident, Crohan had asked the Cofradia to move their church idols so the church's roof could be rebuilt. The Cofradia took offense to the request, saying it violated their rights, and accused Crohan of being an imperialist and trying to steal their idols.

The armed crowd besieged the church and hurled stones at government and Maryknoll officials who had arrived to try to rescue Crohan, who was biding in his chambers. Eight people were hospitalized.

Now in the capital, Crohan is reportedly healthy but unnerved. …

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