Satanism Linked to Priest's Murder in Chilean Cathedral

The archbishop of Santiago decried the existence of Satanic groups in Chile in the wake of the weekend murder of a priest in the metropolitan cathedral.

Cardinal Francisco Errázuriz, archbishop of Santiago and president of the country's episcopate, made that observation Sunday, a day after Servite Father Faustino Gazziero de Stefani, 68, was slain after he had celebrated Mass.

The cardinal lamented that legislative proposals to curb Satanic groups have not been addressed with greater care.

"They have killed Father Faustino also for reasons of faith, for being a priest of Jesus Christ," the cardinal said.

"Satan, the prince of darkness, continues his struggle against the light, as though forgetting that he has already been defeated by Jesus Christ who resurrected after his death and is now the life, hope and light that illumines every human being," he added.

Authorities identified the assailant as Rodrigo Orias Gallardo, 25. Orias, who dressed in black, was armed with a knife, and wounded himself after attacking the priest, authorities said. Police said the assailant was not mentally disturbed or under the influence of drugs.

"It has been a terrible and unexpected tragedy," Father Bernardino Zanella, the vicar responsible for the Servites in Santiago, told the Missionary Service News Agency.

"This young man did not know Father Faustino," he said. "Inspired by the madness of Satanic groups, he attacked him, but he would have attacked anyone who was in that place at that time."

"A brother who was present in the cathedral told us that after killing Father Faustino, the youth knelt down by his side invoking Satan's name," Father Zanella reported.

The Servite vicar warned that "the phenomenon of Satanism in Chile, as in other countries of the world, is growing strongly. Numerous groups are active in the country, especially in the cities, although in recent years their presence has also spread to minor urban centers."

To date, these groups "had limited themselves to desecrate and commit acts of vandalism in sacred places and cemeteries, but it never happened that they attacked persons," the Servite added.

Father Gazziero was a native of Lozzo Atestino, Italy. He went to Chile in 1960, immediately after his priestly ordination.

For years he had been dedicated to education. He was president of the St. Teresa Foundation, which administers numerous schools in the country. He coordinated four schools of the Servants of Mary in Santiago.

He will be buried in the cathedral.