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Catholics in Argentina flocked to Luján on Sunday for a Mass “in favour of life,” as the religious community stepped up its demonstrations in rejection of an upcoming bill to legalise abortion.
Convened to coincide with International Women’s Day, the Mass gathered a large crowd in front of the Basilica of Luján, the heart of Catholicism in Argentina.
“Millions of Argentines, believers and non-believers, have the deep conviction that there life begins at conception,” said Monsignor Oscar Ojea, president of the Argentine Episcopate, in a speech to the crowd.
“It is unfair and painful to call us 'anti-rights' or hypocrites,” he added, alluding to comments by President Alberto Fernández’s in a recent speech to Congress, during which he confirmed he would imminently send a bill to reform Argentina's strict abortion laws.
The Peronist leader said in his speech to lawmakers that he considered it hypocritical to deny that “abortion happens.”
In Argentina, abortion is only allowed in cases of rape or when the woman’s life is at risk, as established in 1921 legislation. Beyond these causes, abortion is punishable with sentences between one and four years in jail.
A crowd gathered to hear the homily from the Basilica esplanade, creating a blue sea of banners, headscarves and handkerchiefs. This colour contrasts with the green handkerchiefs of the feminist movement, which also gathered Sunday for a demonstration in favour of abortion.
“All life is valid for us — that’s why we are at the foot of our lady of Luján,” protester Verónica Jiménez told AFP.
Near her, Gabriel Mayer, who described herself as a devout Catholic, said: “My mother wanted to abort me but she found another solution: adoption.”
The debate has divided Argentine society between blue and green with passion on each side.
Monsignor Ojea asked that “dialogue be the path of social debates from respect and not from the emotional dialectic of those who impose and silence those who think and feel differently.”
Meanwhile, feminist and leftist parties demonstrated on Sunday in front of the Cathedral of Buenos Aires chanting slogan in favour of legal and free abortion.
“Church and State are separate issues,” pro-choice protesters shouted outside the Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires.