Alaska archbishop condemns attacks on Catholic church

Alaska vandalism This photo shows the extent of the damage to St. Andrew Catholic Church. It has been edited to blur the spraypainted phallic images. | St. Andrew Catholic Church

Recent incidents of vandalism committed against a church in Alaska represent an “attack on the dignity of each person and their religious practice,” wrote Archbishop Andrew Bellisario of the Diocese of the Anchorage-Juneau in a letter to parishioners.  

In his Dec. 9 letter, Bellisario called attention to two recent acts of vandalism that took place at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Eagle River. 

“We do not know what has motivated people to do these serious and disturbing actions,” Bellisario wrote. “These are especially significant in the context of the many expressions of anger that have become so commonplace in our society, our political system, and even our Church. This must be called out for its attack on the dignity of each person and their religious practice.”

Last month vandals spray-painted profane images on the church walls and doors, according to a report by the Alaska Watchman. The images were identical to those painted on the church in May, two days after the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade went public. At that time vandals also scattered nails across the church’s parking lot. 

Father Arthur Roraff, pastor of St. Andrew’s, told CNA that whoever committed these crimes is in need of help.

“It has been very disappointing that we have been the target of someone’s anger. There is obviously some frustration and sadness in someone’s life that they feel the desire to vent it on a church, the one place the exists for their healing. What they truly seek is in the church they desecrate,” Roraff said.

“While there is true sadness for the individual or individuals, we can never condone such actions. They should be brought to justice because it is often through justice that one finds contrition and forgiveness. We continue to cooperate with the police to find whoever is responsible for this,” he added.

CatholicVote reports that there have been over 250 attacks against Catholic churches in the U.S. since 2020. A large percentage of those attacks occurred this year, with at least 100 attacks being committed after the Supreme Court leak in May, according to CatholicVote. 

In addition to the attack on St. Andrew’s, on June 2 a pro-life pregnancy center in Anchorage, Community Pregnancy Center, was vandalized with spray-painted pro-abortion messages, a door was broken, and upright nails were placed in the parking lot. 

“The seasons of Advent and Christmas offer the chance to renew the love, respect, and friendship that bind us together,” Archbishop Bellisario noted in his letter. 

“It is especially important for us to do this when these bonds are challenged by those who would disrupt them and sow the division and hatred that Our Lord came to earth to heal,” he wrote. 

“We, as Catholics,” Bellisario said, “must do what we can to promote peace and respect and restore the trust and security upon which healthy human relationships depend.”

Bellisario called on Christians to “pray for all this Advent and Christmas season, especially those who find themselves consumed with feelings of hopelessness, despair, and paralyzing anger.”

The bishop also noted that the archdiocese will be taking steps to increase security.

“In these measures, and in any response to disruptive and violent actions that do take place, our ministers and staff members will cooperate fully with law enforcement authorities, seeking their immediate and sustained intervention and assisting in any criminal investigations,” Bellisario wrote.  

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