Chile’s President Ricardo Lagos has expressed concern about anti-religious sects after a priest died in a knife attack in the nation’s main cathedral.
A 69-year-old priest who had just finished conducting a weekend religious service had his throat cut and was stabbed.
He was confronted as he walked from the altar towards the vestry in the metropolitan cathedral in Santiago.
A 25-year-old man is under detention following the attack.
People queued for hours to pay their respects to Faustino Gazziero, originally from Italy, whose body lay in an open coffin just metres from where he died.
Among the mourners was artist Jessica Nunez who said Chile had never witnessed such violence in a place of worship.
“The first time that it happened in Chile is very hard for us,” she said.
“You would think this could never happen at the church, least of all for a priest. It is terrible.”
Chile is a devoutly Roman Catholic country and the killing is seen as a direct attack on the Church.
Witnesses said the man smeared the priest’s blood on his face and then stabbed himself.
The man is recovering in hospital following the attack.
Police have recovered inverted crosses and goats horns from the man’s rented apartment in Santiago.
They have also interviewed members of a secretive group from his home town in southern Chile.
In the wake of the killing the head of the Roman Catholic Church warned that anti-religious cults were attracting young people in Chile.
President Lagos said the nation was devastated by the nature of the attack and by the existence of some types of sects.
He said a detailed discussion about such groups needed to be conducted later.