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Note: this article originally erroneously stated that the Lima March for Life had been scheduled for March 25, which was the customary date, and that the cancelation by the archbishop had happened only a few days prior to that date. In fact, the march historically has been held close to the date of March 25 but not precisely on that date. This year it was scheduled to occur in May, and the collection was scheduled for March 24. The author apologizes for this error.

March 28, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — The annual March for Life of Lima, Peru, which is one of the largest in the world, was canceled last week without explanation by the archbishop of Lima, Carlos Castillo Mattasoglio, recently appointed by Pope Francis to replace the strongly pro-life Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani.

According to the archdiocese, the date of the march, which customarily takes place every year within weeks of the date of March 25, has been “moved” to an unspecified date in August of this year. The announcement was made in a communiqué by the archdiocesan press office in a document dated March 20 but posted on their website on March 23. Castillo was ordained on March 2.

Although the press release does not mention the archbishop, LifeSite has confirmed that the committee that organizes the march functions as an arm of the archdiocese and is effectively under his control. The organizers have made no mention of the cancelation of the demonstration on their Twitter feed or Facebook page and have not answered a request for an interview from LifeSite.

Cardinal Cipriani denounces postponement on Twitter feed

The now retired Archbishop Emeritus Cipriani publicly lamented the postponement of the march on his Twitter feed. Cipriani urged his readers to “celebrate life,” adding, “Here we used to do that with a great march. This was an initiative that came from various groups and families. It’s very easy to cancel and destroy; to construct is difficult. The right to life of the unborn child is in need of a strong public expression.”

The unexplained cancelation follows an interview in February of this year in which Castillo made remarks indicating that he was opposed to the Catholic Church opposing legislation that would permit the killing of the unborn.

“On the juridical level — I haven’t studied the topic much — it does seem to me to be problematical when someone wishes to make laws and the Church seeks to impede it,” Castillo told the Peruvian magazine Caretas. What is necessary to do is to have a clarifying dialogue, not to make a political struggle out of it, because [the value of] life is an educational issue. I believe that people must reflect on it and decide in freedom. If they make a mistake, we continue to explain, helping them to become aware of it.”

Asked about Cardinal Cipriani’s emphasis on the right to life and opposition to the “right” of abortion and sexual and reproductive “rights,” Castillo seemed to imply that he was reconsidering such positions. “What I think is that pope Francis has inaugurated a period in which it is necessary to see how much of what we are saying has important aspects that we must maintain and to what extent new things are being presented that must be clarified, because there are many matters that are more complex,” he responded.

Lima’s annual march for life had been largely organized by Cardinal Cipriani, who attended personally and spoke to marchers in 2018, when about 800,000 people participated according to ACI Prensa. Non-Catholics also participated.

At that time, Cipriani urged Peruvians to be “a visibly believing people, like now, and when it’s necessary we take the streets, and we take them in the name of all of those who came before us, so that this nation will deliver life and the family to the next generation.”

Cardinal Cipriani: Relativist language of Archbishop Castillo “disturbing”

Cardinal Cipriani seemed to make reference to the interview in his Twitter comments on the day of the announced cancelation of the march, stating, “It’s hard for me to think about a Church that seeks after simple things, let’s not fight with anyone, everyone’s going to be saved…We cannot be silent.”

“A Church that wants to adapt to the age of global relativism…that is very disturbing,” Cipriani added. “The Church is here to preach the truth of Christ and to offer the means of salvation.”

Cipriani pointed out that the date of March 25 is significant for the pro-life movement, which has popularly identified it as the Day of the Unborn Child, due to its association with the Feast of the Annunciation, celebrating the conception of Christ in the womb of the Virgin Mary. In Peru, the Day of the Unborn Child was declared by the physician and then Health Minister Luis Solari de la Fuente in the early 2000s.

“Doctor Luis Solari promoted the law of the Unborn Child on that same day [March 25], reminding the society that it is a great day because we are here because one day we were in the womb of our mother,” tweeted Cipriani.

Argentina was the first country to officially adopt March 25 as the Day of the Unborn Child, which was declared at a ceremony in 1999 that included the presence of Cardinal Bernard Law and was endorsed by Pope John Paul II in a letter written for the occasion.

Carlos Castillo Mattasoglio: Liberation theologian

Archbishop Castillo’s appointment is a powerful act of rebuke by Pope Francis against the morally conservative Cardinal Cipriani, who was for many years engaged in a struggle for control of the ultra-liberal Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, whose professors have a reputation for embracing pro-abortion and pro-LGBT views and which refuses to submit to the governance of the Church. Although the Holy See ruled in 2013 that the university must not call itself “Catholic” until it complies with the Church’s requirements, the university has refused to cease using the name. Archdiocesan clergy were not permitted to teach theology at the university for several years.

Pope Francis made his position on the matter clear in 2016 by overruling the 2013 verdict on the university and taking away Cipriani’s title as chancellor of the school. Francis immediately accepted Cipriani’s obligatory resignation when he turned 75 in December of last year and soon appointed Castillo, who had been a theology professor at the university, as an apparent final slap in the face against Cipriani and in favor of the school.

Castillo is a strong advocate of “liberation theology,” an interpretation of Catholic social justice doctrine that is sometimes associated with Marxist ideology. Moreover, according to the Spanish news service InfoVaticana, Castillo was personally in conflict with Cipriani during his tenure, refusing to carry out pastoral functions during the time he was prohibited from teaching at the university along with the rest of the clergy in the theology department.