Several churches and statues of religious figures were badly damaged in separate incidents across the nation over the weekend.
Law enforcement is currently investigating these incidents in light of the recent protests over statues and monuments.
In Florida, one man crashed his car into the foyer of Queen of Peace Catholic Church before pouring gasoline in the church and setting it on fire, Fox News reports.
The Catholic church was in the midst of conducting its Saturday morning mass at the time of the incident. After setting the building ablaze, the suspect sped away in his vehicle but was eventually caught and taken into custody by police.
24-year-old Steven Anthony Shields was arrested on multiple charges including attempted murder, arson, burglary, and evading arrest.
According to an affidavit report, the suspect in custody told law enforcement officers his actions were “awesome” and that he was on a “mission,” referring to himself as the “king.”
A detective was told by Shields that he took issue with the Catholic Church and did not take his medication for his schizophrenia diagnosis.
While the church’s foyer was immensely burned by the fire, the church was able to safely continue its Mass service.
Meanwhile, on Saturday around 4 a.m., a church in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles California was also set ablaze.
San Gabriel church in Los Angeles had been undergoing renovations in preparation for its 250th anniversary. But, over the weekend, the church became engulfed in flames.
While the cause of the fire remains under investigation, police are taking into consideration the recent destruction of monuments to Roman Catholic priest Junipero Serro. Serro is often seen as a symbol of oppression to indigenous activists.
In Boston, a statue of the Virgin Mary was set on fire Saturday night outside of St. Peter Parish. A report by NBC 10 noted that the flowers in the hands of the statue were burned, which further damaged her arms going up to her face.
In a related incident, another statue of the Virgin Mary in New York had the word “IDOL” spray-painted on it early Friday morning.
Fr. James Kuroly, who serves as rector and president of Cathedral Prep and Seminary in Queens, labeled the incident “an act of hatred.”
“Obviously, this tragedy saddens us deeply but it also renews our hope and faith in the Lord as he has shown his goodness in the many people who have already reached out to us,” Kuroly said, according to the Catholic News Agency. “We are sincerely grateful for the help we have received as well as the prayers. Please continue praying for those who committed this act of vandalism and hatred toward Our Lady and the Church.”
Photo courtesy: ©Ricardo Gomez Angel/Unsplash
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.