QUAYAQUIL, Ecuador, September 18, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) –The Archdiocese of Guayaquil, Ecuador, held three open-air Masses last weekend, September 13, to remind the faithful of the intrinsic value of human life and the duty of government to protect it.
Although the sermons given at the Masses did not mention Ecuador's newly proposed constitution, they were widely seen as a response to the document's pro-abortion and anti-family language.
The Masses were held under the leadership of Archbishop Antonio Arregui Yarza, who is the head of the nation's conference of Catholic bishops, and who has been vocal in his criticism of the document. His opposition has resulted in numerous death threats, denunciations from government officials, and even criminal charges being filed against him.
In his homily, Arregui Yarza said of unborn children, "We all should support the viability of those lives, when there are difficulties. We can never accept the sacrifice of those lives."
The constitution, which will be voted on September 28, must pass with the approval of at least 50% of eligible voters. In recent weeks, public opinion polls have indicated a movement in favor of ratification, although the ultimate outcome is far from clear.
The Masses drew bitter criticism from Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, who said that the Catholic bishops of his country were pathetic specters who are reviving the Church-State conflict, "which was overcome 100 years ago."
"They are simply phantoms who dress in black. They speak of God and don't know him, they speak of respecting life and they don't respect it," said Correa.
Although Correa characterized the Masses as a "failure," some media reports indicated that they received "massive" attendance, numbering in the thousands. However, attendance was apparently not as high as expected. Of 18 city blocks closed off for the services, only five were filled.
The Masses were also attended by Quayaquil mayor Jamie Nebot, former Ecuadorian President Gustavo Noboa, and Evangelical Pastor Francisco Medina. Nobot has stated that Quayaquil will seek some degree of "autonomy" if the constitution is ratified, echoing the intentions of several provinces in Bolivia, where some local governments are resisting the policies of President Evo Morales.
By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman