Parishioners at St. Mary’s parish in Malaga, New Jersey are in disbelief after vandals decapitated nine of their church’s outdoor statues last Thursday morning. Thus far, no suspects have been found.
CBS is reporting that the damage was done between two and four a.m. on Thursday, September 19. Statues of the Sacred Heart, the Virgin Mary, and Our Lady of Fatima were decapitated or badly damaged.
Thus far, police have no one in custody but are hoping surveillance video from nearby businesses may offer some clues as to who perpetrated the crime. Depending on what they find, Chief Michael Rock says vandalism charges could be upgraded to a hate crime.
“If we could determine that this was the result of a bias incident then obviously the charges will be enhanced,” Rock told CBS.
“These are important symbols of the Catholic faith and in that way when you attack the symbols of faith you attack the faith,” said Peter Feuerherd, a spokesperson for the Camden Diocese.
Feuerherd says that judging from the kind of damage done to the statues, whoever did it had it out for the Church.
He is also reassuring distraught parishioners that if at all possible, they will have the statues repaired.
Parishioner Michael Cianchetti agrees and told the Courier Post that he believes whoever committed the vandalism was sending a message.
“They had a meaning,” Cianchetti said. “They went for the statue’s head.”
For other parishioners, such as Cynthia Hetzler, the episode is heartbreaking. “For a statue to be defamed in this way in this very holy ground and this very holy church it is crushing to me.”
Parishioner Kathie Ramos, was equally distressed by the vandalism. “I’ve been a member over 25 years in this parish,” she said. “And this has never happened. Not this.”
But she’s not interested in punishing the culprits and says they need “compassion.”
“Hopefully, God touches their hearts (and) they make a confession,” she said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police at (856) 694-1414.
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