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Fargo diocese investigating vandalism outside cathedral

Cathedral of St. Mary Cathedral of St. Mary, Fargo, North Dakota/ Cathedral of St. Mary

The Diocese of Fargo and the Fargo Police Department are investigating an incident of vandalism outside the cathedral last weekend.

A statue of Jesus in front of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo was defaced with black paint on its face. The diocese said it did not know exactly when the vandalism occurred overnight between Friday, April 16, and Saturday, April 17. 

By Monday, the paint had been removed, however. The diocese said it did not know who removed the paint, and would look for any permanent damage done to the statue. 

The marble statue was originally sent to the cathedral from a parish in Cincinnati which had closed. The Diocese of Fargo installed the statue outside of St. Mary’s Cathedral in May 2018. 

A spokesperson for the diocese told the local news station KVLY that the diocese would be praying for the person who committed the vandalism, hoping that he or she would “someday have an encounter with the face of Christ themselves.”

This is the second act of vandalism at a Catholic church in the Fargo area in recent years. In 2018, a statue of the Virgin Mary was decapitated at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in South Fargo. 

The incident follows a series of acts of vandalism and arson at U.S. Catholic churches last year, which has continued into 2021.

In January, someone attempted arson at the cathedral of the Diocese of Toledo, painting the message “Jesus is Black” on the outside wall and causing an estimated $5,000 in damage.

Other churches and statues were targeted and defaced throughout 2020, including numerous statues of St. Junipero Serra in California which were torn down or vandalized. In Brooklyn, a man toppled a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe outside a church; the Knights of Columbus donated $10,000 for a replacement statue, which was installed on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. 

A historic mission church in California was destroyed by fire in a suspected case of arson, another church in Florida was set on fire with parishioners inside, and St. Mary’s basilica in Minneapolis was damaged by fire.

Senator Joe Kennedy (R-La.) wrote Attorney General William Barr in August, asking the Justice Department to prosecute acts of church vandalism and increase its prevention efforts. 

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) also wrote to Barr, asking him to respond to the targeting of churches.

“Since June, there have been nearly a dozen reported attacks on Catholic churches around the nation. These disturbing attacks range from arson to the beheading of a statue of the Virgin Mary,” he wrote. 

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