A report from the Mexican bishops’ conference has catalogued 1,850 damaged churches – including 17 cathedrals – due to the twin earthquakes that shook the country in September. The report, released on 29th January, found that 1,603 of damaged churches were cataloged as ‘historic’ buildings.
Some 220 churches remain closed, while 38 places of worship collapsed. Churches in at least 26 of Mexico’s dioceses suffered some sort of structural damage.
The 7th September earthquake measured magnitude 8.1 and caused widespread in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca state and in neighbouring Chiapas state. The earthquake claimed nearly 100 lives, and the region is still badly damaged and rebuilding.
A magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck Mexico City and some central states such as Puebla and Morelos on 19th September, claiming 370 lives. The Diocese of Cuernavaca, which serves Morelos, just to the south of Mexico City, reported damage to almost of all its churches.
In Puebla, 11 worshippers were killed in a collapsing church during the earthquake.
Much of the reconstruction will require working with the federal government, as many older churches in Mexico are considered national patrimony. This is partly the product of past prohibitions on the Church owning property, regulations that were scrapped in 1992.
The bishops said such places of worship are pillars in local communities and support some local economies, especially where pilgrimages are popular.
Picture: The destroyed dome of Our Lady of Angels Church is seen in 2017 following the September earthquake in Mexico City. (CNS photo/Francisco Guasco, EPA).