Down the street from La Fortaleza – the mansion of Puerto Rico’s embattled governor – is the oldest cathedral on the island, San Juan Bautista Cathedral.
It’s where many locals come to pray and find comfort amid the protests that have roiled the US territory since last week. But on Monday, the church won’t offer refuge.
Its doors will be closed, as they were for most of the day Sunday for safety reasons, Father Benjamin Perez told CNN.
Last week, the church’s doors were spray-painted with the words “resign dictator” and the building was damaged.
Now, with thousands expected to protest through the capital on Monday, Perez is afraid people may burn the building’s doors.
“The people are sad. There is a lot of pain. There is anger,” Perez told CNN. “But I tell them we have to ask for that peace that we need in these moments.”
Puerto Ricans want Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to resign, after Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published a series of profanity-laced, homophobic and misogynistic messages between Rosselló and other members of his inner circle.
And residents say this is just one of the list of reasons – including ongoing government corruption and economic instability – why they’re rallying on the streets.
“It’s not the same to see it on TV than it is to be here,” Perez says. “Sometimes it makes you want to cry.”
Despite the turmoil, Sunday mass hosted the same number of people as every other week, he said.
And during the service, a common theme: peace.
“Let’s ask our Holy Mother that we use a prudent vocabulary that’s not offensive, but that will help us strengthen and consolidate peace and reconciliation in our country. Peace needs to be built and that’s a great challenge we face now,” Perez said.
“Puerto Rico is not alone, Our Mother in Heaven accompanies it in this crucial moment in history. Let’s ask our Mother to intercede to God so that Puerto Rico can find the pathway to peace and reconciliation “