Peru archbishop fills cathedral with portraits of Covid-19 victims

At mass on Sunday the Archbishop of Lima, Carlos Castillo, looked out over a cathedral full of faces — none of them alive.

The cleric had his church filled with more than 5,000 portraits of those who have died in the pandemic that is spreading across Peru, using his broadcast homily to criticise a health system he said was “based on egotism and on business and not on mercy and solidarity with the people”.

The nation as a whole faces a projected economic contraction of 12% this year and Castillo called for solidarity with the poor.

“An even harder moment is coming,” he said. “It would be terrible if in the times to come we have thousands of these photos – but dead of hunger.”

Covid-19 has killed at least 6,400 people in Peru and there have been more than 225,000 cases, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker.

Portraits are attached on the pews and walls of the Cathedral of Lima, in Peru. Photograph: Reuters

Hundred have died without receiving help from the health system and many families have faced financial ruin due to the cost of trying to care for the sick.

Church workers in Lima spent days filling the pews with images of coronavirus victims. When the 84 pews were filled the archbishop ordered thousands more photos attached to the base of the columns that rise to the arched ceiling.

There were images of doctors, police, firemen and street cleaners, an infant. Some hugged their grandchildren. A woman danced with her son.

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