One or more unidentified individuals entered and desecrated a Catholic church in Brazil, destroying all 28 statues of saints, to the pain and outrage of the faithful.

The attack took place Oct. 10 around noon in São Mateus church in the town of São Mateus do Sul located in Paraná state in southern Brazil.

“Our statues were broken, but our faith is firm,” said the pastor of the parish, Father José Carlos Emanoel dos Santos, at an Oct. 11 press conference.

The priest said he was grateful for the many expressions of solidarity they have received.

Among the images that were destroyed were the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of the Assumption.

The priest stressed that “evangelical brothers” also sent notes repudiating the vandalism, “something that we also appreciate.”

Father Diego Ronaldo Nakalski, parochial vicar, said that whoever destroyed the images “closed the doors to commit this atrocity and left only one side door open through which he probably left.”

“It seemed that we were at war to see everything destroyed. The images refer us to something greater, to something of heaven. When the people saw them broken, the feeling was of very great pain, horrific,” lamented the priest.

At the press conference, it was also reported that the local police already have a suspect.

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In a statement posted on Facebook from the Diocese of União da Vitoria, Bishop Walter Jorge Pinto said that he trusts “in God and we hope that such a person can be appropriately held responsible for the acts he has committed and that other acts similar to this won’t happen again.”

“We are witnessing the spread throughout the world, and also in Brazil, especially in this election season, of all kinds of conflicts through the hatred that divides people, especially using social media,” the bishop lamented.

This, he said, leads “to division that only makes evil grow, that separates the people, that does not allow dialogue, teaching us to see in those who think differently from us an enemy that must be combated at all costs.”

“As bishop of this portion of the people of God, especially those who live in São Mateus do Sul, I exhort everyone not to let themselves be moved by feelings other than the feelings of those who are true disciples of Jesus Christ,” he said.

“May God bless our people of São Mateus in this painful moment, with whom we hope to be together shortly for a religious act of prayer and reparation for the evil committed and suffered,” the bishop concluded.

A Mass of Reparation was scheduled for Oct. 11, to be offered by Pinto, during which the altars of the saints whose images were destroyed will be blessed.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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