.- An investigation that likely would have led to criminal charges against four Mormon missionaries who desecrated a Catholic shrine in 2006, has been stopped by local authorities following a request made during Holy Week by the Catholic community of Costilla County, in the Diocese of Pueblo, Colorado.
Cpl. Scott Powell, the investigating officer in charge of the case, confirmed on Good Friday that the Costilla County Sheriff's Office will not continue looking into the actions of four missionaries who allegedly mocked the Catholic Church and vandalized a holy shrine in San Luis, Colorado's oldest town.
Photographs taken in August 2006 and discovered on the Internet by a Sangre de Cristo parishioner earlier this month, show the Mormon missionaries preaching behind a church altar while waving a Book of Mormon, pretending to sacrifice one another and holding the head of a statue of a Mexican martyr, whom the missionary shown in the picture claimed to have decapitated. The mocking took place at All Saints Chapel and the Shrine of the Mexican Martyrs in San Luis.
Officials with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have publicly apologized to the San Luis community for the actions of the three young men in the photos and announced that all of them have been disciplined.
In an Easter letter released to "The Pueblo Chieftain" last Tuesday, Bishop Tafoya wrote asking that "we as Catholics, who believe in the forgiveness of Christ, will ourselves forgive, and pray for the young men who showed such a lack of tolerance and understanding."
"I especially ask the members of the San Luis community to help the healing process by removing any anger that exists in their hearts. This is the time that we can show our love of Christ by forgiving and loving our neighbors," he wrote.
"To go to heaven -the Bishop added, - we must believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and to do what he has asked us to do. One of the things that he has asked is that we forgive those who have sinned against us."
In response to the Bishop's request, the parish council took a vote and recommended on Thursday afternoon, before celebrating the Mass of the Institution of the Eucharist, that no charges be filed against the young men.
Cpl. Powell said that based on what he was discovering in his investigation, charges "very easily could have been brought" against the young men.
"It's moot at this point," he said. "When that recommendation came from the church, everything stopped."
"We are very, very grateful," said Robert Fotheringham, who is in charge of the Mormon church's missionary program in a four state region that includes the San Luis Valley.
"The people we dealt with are big-spirited, and I'm frankly not surprised," he added.