A group of three statues honoring the Holy Family was vandalized Feb. 23 at Holy Family Catholic Church in Jacksonville, Florida, the latest in a worrisome surge of attacks on Catholic churches across the country.
"It's disheartening and very upsetting,” Holy Family Catholic Church Administrator Patti Lombardo told CNA on Thursday.
The incident report shows the marble statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Child Jesus, and St. Joseph all had either vulgar or satanic images written on them in black marker. “Hail satan” was written on the Child Jesus. Surveillance footage shows three people at the scene, two of whom appear to write on the statues. You can watch the church's videos of the incident here and here.
“It's costing us a lot of money to try to fix it,” Lombardo told CNA. “When people deface property it's just sad. I wish they would come forward and make restitution. And I hope they never do this again."
The vandalism at Holy Family is just one of many that has occurred in recent weeks, which is now part of a series of attacks that have been reported across the country in the past two years.
In response, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asking him to “increase efforts to identify and prosecute criminals targeting Catholic people and property so that the tens of millions of Catholics in our country can continue to practice their faith safely.”
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Kennedy wrote a similar letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in August 2020 in which he asked it to “act swiftly and carefully to bring an end to these heinous crimes” of vandalism. In his new letter, he says he never received a response and is now demanding one.
Kennedy has requested that the DOJ respond with a written update within 30 days of receiving the letter, “regarding the specific steps being taken to bring these injustices to an end.”
Next door to Holy Family, Deermeadows Baptist Church was also vandalized the same night, damaging a rest room and furniture, Tammy Benedict, church administrator, told CNA.
Father David Keegan, Pastor at Holy Family posted on Facebook photos of the suspected vandal, who was caught on security cameras. Two other individuals were with the suspect when the vandalism took place, the images show.
“Be on the lookout!” Keegan wrote. “These are the vandals who desecrated our property.”
“For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. (Eph 6:12),” he added.
Lombardo told CNA the vandalism was done with Sharpies, a permanent marker, so restoration of the statue has taken longer than expected because “it’s really hard to get off.”
“It’s just annoying,” she added. Anyone with information about the vandalism can use this link to contact the Jacksonville Police Department.
Joseph Bukuras is a journalist at the Catholic News Agency. Joe has prior experience working in state and federal government, in non-profits, and Catholic education. He has contributed to an array of publications and his reporting has been cited by leading news sources, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Catholic University of America. He is based out of the Boston area.
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