Horrified churchgoers heard Father Faustino Gazziero (photo#1, photo#2, photo#3) scream as he was attacked, but most did not actually see the killing as the priest had already walked away from the altar (pictures of spot where Father Gazziero was murdered: photo#1, photo#2).
"I only saw when people took the knife away from the [attacker], but I clearly heard the Father's cries," a man who identified himself as Raul told the Santiago daily La Tercera.
Authorities identified the assailant as Rodrigo Orias Gallardo, 25. Orias (photo#1, photo#2, posing in Chile with MARDUK) smeared his face with the victim's blood and then stabbed himself several times in the chest and neck with the same knife (photo of similar knife/dagger), several witnesses said.
Orias, who admitted that he made the 1,900-km journey to Santiago from his parents' hometown of Coyaique with the intention of murdering a priest, was rushed to a hospital and underwent surgery (photo#1, photo#2). He was under arrest.
He was reportedly not under the effect of drugs or alcohol at the time of the July 24 attack.
Police have recovered inverted crosses, goats' horns and a number of heavy metal albums from Orias' rented apartment in Santiago.
Chile is a devoutly Roman Catholic country and the killing is seen as a direct attack on the Church.
The Chilean media is said to be in shock over the incident and has focused on finding a connection between the killing of Father Gazziero and Orias' devotion to black metal bands like DARK FUNERAL and MARDUK. Several recent TV programs have featured discussions about sects, Satan and Satanic metal, generating the kind of media frenzy unseen in Chile since the Church banned IRON MAIDEN from performing in Santiago almost a decade ago due to the band's "demonic" overtones.
Orias, who had a pentagram branded on the left side of his chest (covering his heart) and several other Satanic symbols tattooed on his body (photo of one of Orias' tattoos), reportedly asked DARK FUNERAL singer Emperor Magus Caligula during the Swedish black metal band's visit to Santiago last year to burn an inverted cross on Rodrigo's arm with a cigar, a "mark" which he later planned to make into a tattoo.
Over the course of the last few days, several churches in Chile have been vandalized and others have received anonymous letters and phone calls threatening to kill more priests during the coming weeks.
Father Bernardino Zanella, the vicar responsible for the Servites in Santiago, told the Missionary Service News Agency that "the phenomenon of Satanism in Chile, as in other countries of the world, is growing strongly. Numerous groups are active in the country, especially in the cities, although in recent years their presence has also spread to minor urban centers."
To date, these groups "had limited themselves to desecrate and commit acts of vandalism in sacred places and cemeteries, but it never happened that they attacked persons," the Servite added, according to Zenit.org.
Father Gazziero, 69, was a native of Lozzo Atestino, Italy. He went to Chile in 1960, immediately after his priestly ordination. He used to live in his alleged killer's hometown, Coyhaique, but this does not appear to be related to the incident and is considered to be merely coincidental. Gazziero moved from Coyhaique to Santiago in the late 1970s.
For years he had been dedicated to education. He was president of the St. Teresa Foundation, which administers numerous schools in the country. He coordinated four schools of the Servants of Mary in Santiago.
View Spanish-language reports on the murder of Father Faustino Gazziero:
(Thanks: Cristobal Lagos)