During Holy Week a Catholic church in Houston was targeted by iconoclastic vandals who in separate incidents damaged two statues of the Virgin Mary and sprayed an anti-Catholic slur on the church building.
One vandal painted an apparent threat expressing a belief that Catholics worship idols.
The incidents took place during services on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday at All Saints Catholic Church, the Houston Chronicle reports.
After the 12:30 p.m. Palm Sunday Mass parishioners noticed that a four-foot tall marble statue of Our Lady of Lourdes had been pulled from its pedestal during the service. Since 1945 the statue had been displayed at the front of the church in the parish grotto, which was dedicated to veterans of World War II. It had been closed for renovation.
Pastoral assistant Cary Ann Nunn told the Houston Chronicle that, the statue is now missing fingers and part of its face and back. It was likely struck with an object.
After the vandalism, parish pastor Monsignor Adam McClosky secured the statue in storage while it awaits a costly restoration. He then replaced the statue with a 3-foot-tall statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
During the Easter sunrise Mass at 6:30 a.m., the replacement statue was placed on its head and streaked with black paint. The vandals also painted slurs on the wall of a handicap ramp. "Don't let them worship idols," the vandals painted in black. In red paint, they painted the words “You are warned.”
"Everybody is so angry," Nunn said. "It is very hurtful."
Nunn continued saying, "We don't worship idols at all." "It is like a picture of your mother.” This reflects the Catholic belief saints only act as intercessors before God and that it is in fact God, not the saint, who answers their prayers.
A police spokesman said it was not known if the incidents were related. He said the vandalism was not yet being treated as a hate crime, but officers were trying to determine if people were specifically targeted because of their religion.