A wave of recent attacks on Catholic statues around America and fires at two churches prompted the chairmen of two US bishops’ committees to decry “the destruction of these holy symbols of selfless love and devotion”.
“Whether those who committed these acts were troubled individuals crying out for help or agents of hate seeking to intimidate, the attacks are signs of a society in need of healing,” said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami and Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City in a joint statement.
“In those incidents where human actions are clear, the motives still are not. As we strain to understand the destruction of these holy symbols of selfless love and devotion, we pray for any who have caused it, and we remain vigilant against more of it,” they said.
Archbishop Wenski is chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Coakley is chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
Among incidents the two prelates pointed out were the beheading of a statue of Christ at a Catholic church in the Miami Archdiocese, the defacing of a statue of Mary outside a Catholic school in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. They also highlighted two church fires, one that severely damaged the interior of a church in the Diocese of Orlando, Florida, and one that gutted a 230-year-old mission church in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
“Our nation finds itself in an extraordinary hour of cultural conflict,” Archbishops Wenski and Coakley said. “The path forward must be through the compassion and understanding practiced and taught by Jesus and his holy Mother.
“Let us contemplate, rather than destroy, images of these examples of God’s love,” they said. “Following the example of Our Lord, we respond to confusion with understanding and to hatred with love.”
In recent weeks, angry mobs have toppled statues of figures such as St Junipero Serra, a Franciscan priest from Spain who founded several missions in California. Statues of historical figures, like Christopher Columbus, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Frederick Douglass, have also been knocked down and heavily damaged.
Picture: A statue of St Junipero Serra in Sacramento, Calif., is seen in this 2015 file photo. It was torn down by a group of demonstrators late on 4th July 2020. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec).