Two 12-year-olds were identified by police Sunday as suspects in the vandalism of a Massachusetts Catholic church, which included a fire being set to an altar cloth, a tabernacle cloth, and the lectionary.

The two juveniles, a boy and a girl, will not face any charges at this time, police said. 

On Oct. 6, police and fire authorities responded to a call from St. John the Evangelist Church in East Bridgewater after smoke was reported at about 3:30 p.m. The pastor discovered the fire after smelling smoke. 

Investigators on the scene determined that there was a fire around the altar that had been put out with a fire extinguisher. Yellow residue was left in the front of the church.

Investigators also determined that a water jug had been removed from the sacristy and was used to attempt to put out the fire. The suspects had lit votive candles at the front of the church and left used matches littered near them, police said.

Additionally, police said that items were taken from the church’s food pantry, some of which were dropped while the perpetrators were exiting the building.

Following the investigation and testimony from a witness, police determined the suspects were two juveniles, a Sunday press release said. 

Police are not releasing the names of the suspects because they are juveniles. 

Father Paul Ring, pastor of the church, told CNA Monday that the vandalism is “disturbing,” especially because of the sacred objects that the juveniles chose to set on fire. 

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“It wounded a community,” Ring said. 

Ring said he wants the two 12-year-olds to understand “how serious this was,” adding that the altar — “our family table” — was desecrated.

Ring said the juveniles’ families “have ties” to the church and are local school children. 

“I pray that in my working with the police and working with the church authorities, my superiors, and working with the families, that we can come to a resolution on this,” he said.

Ring said the church will be reconsecrated and that the cleanup will cost thousands of dollars. 

His hope for the juveniles is that they learn from this mistake and “they don’t go down the wrong road.”

“My care is for them as well to make sure that they understand the seriousness of this so that they don’t do this again,” he said.

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