Latin America & Caribbean

Roman Catholic bishops condemn violence in Argentina

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner Image copyright AFP
Image caption President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner clashed with the Catholic church over gay marriages

Roman Catholic bishops in Argentina have said the country is "sick with violence" and compared corruption to a cancer "causing injustice and death".

In a statement released at their annual conference, they said violence was getting more ferocious than ever.

The government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner responded by saying this was a "deliberate attempt" to blame it for the insecurity.

Her administration has had clashes with the Catholic church before.

On Friday's statement, the bishops focused mainly on the rising violence.

"We notice with pain and concern that Argentina is sick with violence. Some symptoms are clear, others more subtle," they wrote.

'Ferocious and merciless'

"Criminal acts have not only risen in number but in aggressiveness - a violence ever more ferocious and merciless."

It says that the Church wishes to see judges and prosecutors acting swiftly, independently and calmly.

They also criticised "public and private" corruption, calling it a real "social cancer", which causes "injustice and death".

However the bishops warned people against acts of vengeance or taking justice into their own hands.

Argentina's chief of cabinet, Jorge Capitanich, reacted to the statement saying there was a "deliberate attempt" by the opposition to blame Mrs Fernandez de Kirchner's government for the violence.

"Many of those who want to be presidential candidates [in October 2015] have had serious trouble on this issue in their districts," Mr Capitanich said.

The bishops' statement also points a finger at the media for not always reporting "objectively and respecting privacy" and for promoting "divisions and aggressiveness".

Mrs Fernandez de Kirchner's relationship with the church has never been as tense as that of her predecessor and late husband, Nestor Kirchner.

In 2010, when Argentina became the first South American country to legalise gay marriage, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio attacked the government.

There have also been clashes over the issue of abortion.

However, since the appointment of Pope Francis, in 2013, relations have thawed to some extent, with the president meeting the leader of the church three times since then, correspondents say.