Pope backs Peruvian villagers against church land grab

Peruvian villagers

Pope Francis has voiced his support for a group of Peruvian villagers.

The villagers claim they are facing attempts to seize their land by companies associated with a prominent South American church organisation.

The villagers, part of the San Juan Bautista de Catacaos farmers community in northern Peru, allege they have been targeted through legal actions and dubious land titling methods.

In a recorded video message from the Vatican, Pope Francis addressed the villagers in Spanish.

He expressed solidarity with their plight.

He urged them to hold on to their land, saying “I know what happened to you. Defend your land and don’t let them steal it”.

Controversial lay group

The controversy concerns the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a lay group with various interests including education, spirituality and business ventures.

Founded in Peru in 1971, the group has faced allegations of sexual abuse by its founder and leaders, prompting investigations and scrutiny into its activities.

The Vatican dispatched a commission to investigate the Sodalitium’s actions, particularly regarding allegations of financial impropriety and abuse.

During their visit to Peru, the investigators met with members of the Catacaos community.

The group claim that the Sodalitium is attempting to claim ownership of over 1900 hectares (4,000 acres) of land they have cultivated for generations.

The Catacaos community allege the Sodalitium is using fraudulent documents and legal harassment.

Defenders of their land

The Peruvian villagers, who commemorate their community’s 466th anniversary this year, received the Pope’s message with gratitude.

Marcelino Ynga, the community’s leader, expressed hope for a swift resolution from the Vatican regarding the Sodalitium’s status.

Carlos Rodriguez, the community’s lawyer, interpreted the Pope’s message as acknowledgement and support for the villagers’ struggle.

“These farmers are not delinquents” he said. “They are defenders of their land.”

As the legal battle over the land dispute continues in Peruvian courts, Pope Francis’s intervention adds moral weight to the villagers’ cause.

It also highlights social justice, land rights and the role of religious institutions in local communities.


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