Churches in 6 states damaged by violent protests

By Christine Rousselle

Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver. Credit: Father Ronald Cattany

.- Catholic churches and cathedrals in several cities were among the buildings damaged in the protests and riots that occurred nationwide over the past week.

Church buildings in California, Minnesota, New York, Kentucky, Texas, and Colorado were attacked. Many of the defaced or damaged churches were cathedrals. The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver sustained permanent damage. 

Vandals repeatedly struck the Denver cathedral on multiple nights of the protests and riots over the weekend. The church building and rectory were spray painted with the slogans “Pedofiles” [sic], “God is dead,” “There is no God,” along with other anti-police, anarchist, and anti-religion phrases and symbols. 

Gates surrounding the cathedral were damaged, and tear gas that was fired to disperse the protests leaked into the rectory. The doors to the cathedral are believed to have been permanently damaged by the vandalism and will reportedly need to be replaced. 

Three bags of rocks were collected from the parking lot, but the cathedral’s most valuable windows were unharmed. Other windows on the cathedral’s campus were shattered.  

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City was tagged with various graffiti, including profanities, “No justice, no peace,” “BLM” (Black Lives Matter) “NYPDK.” The name of George Floyd was also written on the stairs outside the cathedral.

Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25 sparked a week of ongoing protests in cities across the country, some of which descended into violence.

In New York City, surveillance video captured two women spray painting the cathedral on Saturday afternoon, during the protests in the city. Police are looking to identify both women and are offering a reward. 

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On Sunday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and chairman of the Commission of Religious Leaders (CORL), issued a joint statement condemning the death of Floyd as well as violence and looting. 

“We respect those who want to honor George Floyd’s memory with peaceful protest against the horror, evil, and sin that is racism,” the statement said. 

“We also support the members of Floyd’s family who said, in part, ‘We cannot endanger each other as we respond to the necessary urge to raise our voices in unison and in outrage. Looting and violence distract from the strength of our collective voice.’” 

In Dallas, the Saint Jude Chapel located in the city’s downtown area was severely damaged by rocks late Friday evening. 

“We did have some vandalism at St. Jude on late Friday night. They threw a couple of these rocks through the window,” said Fr. Jonathan Austin, chaplain of the chapel, during his homily at Sunday’s Mass. Austin held up one of the rocks that was thrown through the window. 

Austin said that when he watched a surveillance video of the vandalism, he doubted that the vandals knew that they were even attacking a church, and that he suspected they were “breaking things to break things.” 

“I looked in their eyes and I thought, ‘wow, they don’t even know.’ Just the smile that was there, that this was a good thing,” he said. 

Three windows at the front of the chapel were shattered, and the chapel was boarded up as a result.

“These panes of glass are nothing,” said Austin. “Glass breaks all the time, sadly. But last week, Mr. George Floyd’s life was taken. It was taken by a man who did not respect it.” 

Austin added that he believed the “vast, vast majority” of people throughout the country were “not rising up for something bad, but for something good.” He urged everyone to “stand for true peace,” and offered prayers for Floyd, his family, and others who lost their lives to “horrific acts, especially at the hands of authorities.” 

The Daughters of St. Paul bookstore in Chicago was similarly damaged by rocks, and would-be looters entered the store early on Sunday morning. Earlier in the day, the Blessed Sacrament was removed from the tabernacle in the bookstore’s chapel and the sisters sequestered themselves upstairs. 

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None of the sisters were injured, and upon doing a review of inventory, found that nothing had been stolen. 

The rectory of the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville suffered damage due to rocks thrown by protestors. Three windows were shattered late Friday evening, and the cathedral proceeded to preemptively board up all other windows to prevent further damage. 

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who resides at the damaged rectory along with another priest, has spoken out in favor of peaceful protests and condemned “senseless violence” in the city. 

In Minneapolis, where the protests began, St. Mary’s Basilica--the first basilica in the United States--sustained minor damage during protests on May 29. A fire was lit underneath a pew, but it did not spread beyond that pew. 

“The Basilica of Saint Mary did withstand minor damage yesterday. No one was injured in the incident. At the time we pray for peace and healing in our city,” a spokesperson for the basilica said in a statement issued May 30. The basilica is the co-cathedral of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

In Los Angeles, the Our Lady of Mt. Lebanon-St. Peter Cathedral, the Maronite cathedral for the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, was vandalized with anti-police messages during the protests and riots. 

On Monday, the cathedral shared a video of people painting over the graffiti. 

“Peace to all !! Our Cathedral is shining again,” wrote the church on Facebook. 

Tags: George Floyd

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