Thousands of Argentine Catholics on Friday renounced their membership in the church to protest its opposition to a bill that would have legalized abortion in Pope Francis's homeland, a group said.
A list of signatures from Catholics angered at the church's role was presented to the Argentine Episcopal Conference at its headquarters in Buenos Aires.
The country's Senate voted down a bill to decriminalize abortion on August 9, two months after it had been narrowly approved by the Chamber of Deputies.
"We have taken a big step today. We are presenting about 3,000 apostates," said Fernando Losada, using the formal term for those who abandon their religious faith.
"It's time to completely separate the church from the state. In society, it is understood that the church and the state do not go hand in hand," said Losada, who is with the Argentine Coalition for a Lay State (CAEL), which organized the protest.
The group launched its campaign following the Senate vote.
While Pope Francis, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, remains highly influential, CAEL said anti-church sentiment was growing in the wake of the abortion vote.