Agence France-Presse (AFP) is reporting that rioters broke into the 18th century church of Santi Marcellino and Pietro near St. John Lateran square where much of the violence was centered.
“When I came down, I saw the entrance door had been smashed in,” the church’s parish priest, Father Giuseppe Ciucci, was quoted by Italian media as saying.
“The Virgin Mary’s statue, which was at the entrance, had been taken away and I saw it had been thrown into the street and smashed,” he said.
“I went into the sacristy and I saw the door there was also destroyed. The large crucifix at the entrance had been vandalized,” he added.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said he "condemned the violence and the fact that a church was desecrated by some protesters who broke in and destroyed some images." He called the clashes between police and protesters "horrific."
During the course of the melee, hooded protesters torched cars, smashed banks and hurled rocks at police. The perpetrators of the violence were said to have infiltrated the larger and more peaceful demonstration of malcontents who turned out to protest Italy's high unemployment, political class, and $83 billion in austerity measures that resulted in the raising of taxes and the cost of health care.
About 70 people were injured during the demonstrations which results in millions of dollars in property damage.
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Photo is by Alessandro Bianchi of Reuters