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Ex-rebels occupy cathedral in El Salvador, prevent services

Catholic World News - April 03, 2012

A group of Salvadoran ex-rebels has occupied the cathedral in their nation’s capital, and prevented religious services there since January.

"We regret that our cathedral is still occupied, especially during this special moment such as Holy Week,” says Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador, who has called upon the occupiers to “reflect and desist from this evil act that goes against the respect and honor of God and violates the right of people to worship God in his temple.”

The ex-rebels seized the cathedral in January, announcing that they would leave when the Salvadoran government agrees to negotiate on a series of demands including economic benefits for veterans of the country’s long civil war and reinstatement of individuals who were forced out of the police force. The group has promised to leave the cathedral as soon as the government accedes to its demands for a negotiating commission.

Archbishop Escobar Alas said that the Church has been patient with the occupation, but the continued interference with religious services is a violation of the country’s constitution as well as an affront to the Church. He mentioned that “volunteers” from other parishes had expressed a willingness to oust the occupiers: an offer that the archdiocese has not accepted.

A spokesman for the occupying group said that the group had shown its respect for the Catholic Church by allowing the faithful to visit the tomb of the slain Archbishop Oscar Romero on March 24, the anniversary of his death.

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