The Church of San Alandro is a Cruisan denomination based in Xochimechatl. Around three quarters of the island's Cruisan population is nominally affiliated to the Church of San Alandro, although the church has little following elsewhere. It is an offshoot of the Papaist Church.
The Church of San Alandro follows policies broadly similar to those of its parent, the Papaist Church, although without any of the reforms implemented since it split away. In some cases, the Church of San Alandro has actually reversed several reforms which, prior to separation, it had grudgingly accepted.
The Church of San Alandro has a decidedly militant outlook, and sees the pro-active and aggressive promotion of its faith as a religious duty. It believes that other Cruisan churches are passive and complacent, being more interested in enjoying their position than spreading the religion to non-believers. The Church of San Alandro tends to reject co-operation and dialogue between religions, seeing them as "adversaries to be defeated, not neighbours with whom to co-exist".
In some specific areas, however, the Church of San Alandro has adopted more progressive policies than the Papaist Church. One such area is the ordination of women — unlike the Papaist Church, the Church of San Alandro allows women to become priests, and indeed, has had a female leader. It has also been more willing than the Papaists to use vernacular languages (rather than Liliani) in services. It justifies these positions by saying that if the Church is to achieve victory, and make Xochimechatl a Cruisan country, the Church cannot afford to exclude people based on gender or language. These policies do not necessarily have broad support outside the Church's leadership, however, and are frequently debated.
Around 500,000 people are nominally affiliated to the Church of San Alandro, although the extent to which these people follow Church doctrines is variable. On the whole, the Church's leaders are considerably more radical than average Church members — this has created a substantial amount of dissent within the Church, and internal Church politics is highly charged. Many nominal Church members are quite relaxed about religion, and see their affiliation with the Church more as being more about tradition and identity than faith.
The Church of San Alandro is one of the nine religious groups with a seat on Xochimechatl's Council of Theocrats, which nominally administers the country. It is unpopular with the other members of the Council, and therefore lacks influence — on a number of occasions, it has publicly speculated on withdrawing its participation.
The Church of San Alandro was originally part of the Papaist Church, having been established in Xochimechatl by missionaries from Lendia. It split from the Papaists in 216 AP, after several decades of disagreement with the Papaist leadership. A number of issues contributed to the split:
- Changes to the Papaist policy on relations with other faiths. A succession of Popes had softened the Church's "antiquated" stance on dealings with non-believers, and missionary work was de-emphasised. Papaists were to cease their condemnations of non-Papaists, and instead "aim to promote religious harmony". The Xochimechatlan branch of the Church had always had a strong emphasis on spreading the religion and "converting the heathen", and Papaist bishops in Xochimechatl still saw conversion of the whole island to Papaism as their religious duty.
- The removal of the Archbishop of Ravenniara. The head of the Papaist Church in Xochimechatl had been removed from office by the Pope on charges of corruption, but still had a large number of supporters. His dismissal prompted widespread dissatisfaction among local Papaists, who believed that he had been removed for his outspoken criticism of the Church's reforms.
- Accusations against Pope Dominico XV. At the time of the split, a number of damaging rumours were circulating about the Pope, who had been elected in 212 AP. The most prevalent was that his election had been invalid. It was claimed that as a young man, before deciding to enter the Church, he belonged to a radical Papaist organisation called the Giuvanos, membership of which resulted in automatic excommunication. If Dominico truly had been a member, he was excommunicated as soon as he joined, making all his subsequent appointments invalid under Church law. This rumour was more widely believed in Xochimechatl than other places, largely due to Dominico's unpopularity on the island. (Another much more scandalous rumour was that Dominico and his reformist allies were responsible for the sudden death of his predecessor, Bernardo XVI, who died of a supposed heart attack after only four months. This rumour was only believed by a small minority, however).
In 214 AP, a Xochimechatlan bishop openly called for "temporary separation" from the Papaist Church, "until such a time as we have a legitimate Pope who supports the true faith". This call was echoed by a number of other Church leaders, and became a popular view among Papaist clergy in Xochimechatl. In late 216 AP, a council of the island's bishops declared the rule of Pope Dominico XV to be invalid, both due to the alleged excommunication and due to his "deviation from the Church's holy mission to spread the word of Cruis". They proclaimed that the Xochimechatlan branch of the Papaist Church would "function independently" until such a time as a legitimate Pope took office. Dominico XV responded by giving the Xochimechatlan bishops three months "to see the error of their position", finally excommunicating them when they did not retreat from their decision.
The newly separate Xochimechatlan church elected one of its number to be Archbishop of Ravenniara (the tensions meant that no replacement had been named to replace the Archbishop dismissed by the Pope). Initially, the Xochimechatlan dissidents believed that they would return to the Papaist fold when a more conservative Pope was elected, but gradually, this view faded. The Xochimechatlan bishops gradually became more extreme in their positions, seeing themselves as locked in a struggle with the island's native religions for control. Further reforms by subsequent Popes were angrily condemned by the Xochimechatlan bishops, and the chances of reconciliation diminished.
During the controversial reign of Miguel II, the Xochimechatlans declared that the Papaist Church had "failed", and that its true spirit lived on only in certain dissident branches. They claimed that the Papaism of Lendia had become corrupt and complacent, and that it was only on the frontier, where the missionary spirit lived on, that real faith could be found. In 240 AP, the bishops decided to proclaim their independence in name as well as in fact. They named their group the Church of San Alandro, after the patron saint of Xochimechatl — according to them, the survival of the true religion can be attributed to St Alandro's mission to Xochimechatl, "for if he had not come here, the faith would have died when the papacy became corrupted, and there would be nowhere in this world that remembered the true ways".