MIAMI — The beheading of a statue of Christ at a Catholic church in the Miami Archdiocese has saddened the parish community of Good Shepherd Church and prompted Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski to call on law enforcement to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
On July 15, the statue at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Southwest Miami-Dade was found with its head chopped off and knocked from its pedestal.
“It is too soon to arrive to any conclusion, but we have seen other churches vandalized around the country. We totally ‘condemn’ this action. We invite our community to pray for peace,” parish officials wrote in a statement.
The Department of Homeland Security is among the agencies investigating the case.
In recent weeks around the country, crowds have toppled statues of figures such as St. Junipero Serra, a Franciscan priest from Spain who founded several missions in California. Statues of historical figures, like Christopher Columbus, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Frederick Douglass, also have been knocked down and heavily damaged.
A wave of recent attacks on Catholic statues includes an unidentified person using red paint to deface a statue of Mary in front of St. Mary’s Cathedral in downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado, July 15.
“It does look like a graffiti tag more than anything else,” Father David Price, the cathedral’s rector, told local reporters. “I’m not sure there was any sense or meaning behind it.”
In the Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee, Father Manuel Perez, pastor of St. Stephen Catholic Church in Chattanooga, found a statue of Mary on the parish grounds knocked over and beheaded. News reports said the 5-foot-tall statue was worth $2,000. The missing head has not been found.
As in Florida, the Department of Homeland Security is looking into the incident as a possible hate crime.
“Anytime something like this happens it is disappointing and concerning,” wrote Diocese of Knoxville diocesan spokesman Jim Wogan in a statement. “We don’t know if this was the targeted desecration of a sacred statue, or some kind of misguided prank, but it hurts.”
A statue of Mary was found defaced July 10 on the grounds of Cathedral Prep School and Seminary in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York.
Police in Boston were likewise investigating a fire that damaged a statue of Mary outside St. Peter Church the evening of July 11. News reports said flowers in Mary’s hands were set on fire, causing damage from her arms up to her face.
Fire also claimed much of two Catholic churches, one in Florida and one in California. A man was charged with several felonies in the fire in Florida, while investigators haven’t yet determined the cause of the California fire.