Vandals strike Catholic churches in Boston suburbs

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/04/08/vandals-strike-catholic-churches-in-boston-suburbs/

BOSTON – A spate of vandalism directed at Catholic religious icons around Easter weekend has provoked ire mixed with forgiveness from parishioners at affected congregations in Greater Boston and has left law enforcement officers scratching their heads.

Vandals struck in Billerica, Burlington and Norwood, including two statues of the Virgin Mary. The attackers severed appendages on both.

The Saturday before Easter Sunday, Norwood police received a call about a statue covered in black spray paint with a scrawled symbol on its base and sent out a tweet March 26 asking the public for help. The statue is at St. Catherine of Siena Church, 547 Washington St. in Norwood.

The vandalized statue of the Virgin Mary at the St. Catherine of Siena parish in Norwood. (Courtesy Archdiocese of Boston)

The vandalized statue of the Virgin Mary at the St. Catherine of Siena parish in Norwood. (Courtesy Archdiocese of Boston)

Some online commenters have observed that the symbol resembled the Arabic word for Allah.

“There’s a strong resemblance that it’s a symbol of Allah,” Norwood Police Officer Kevin Grasso said Friday. “We don’t know what the true intent is until we determine who the suspect is.”

He said the case is under investigation, but no suspects have been named.

“It really breaks my heart someone had so much anger, in a way, to do that,” parishioner Kaitlyn Savage told WCVB-TV. She recounted the reactions of older parishioners to the damage.

“They walked by and all broke down in tears,” she said. “It was the saddest thing ever. I had seen them in the church before and it broke my heart that all those little old ladies were crying.”

Three statues at St. Margaret’s Church were damaged over Easter weekend. The head and hands of one, depicting the Virgin Mary, had been cut off. Two other statues had lost hands, with rosary beads “scattered on the ground,” according to Burlington police, who are investigating the crime.

The Rev. Frank Silva, pastor of the church, discovered the damage.

“I immediately noticed the head had been chopped off and as I got closer the hands had been broken off,” he told WBZ-TV.

The Archdiocese of Boston is working with the affected churches on how to restore or replace the statues, according to Terrence Donilon, a spokesman. “We should pray for the person or persons who are responsible,” he added.

“This is a deeply disturbing crime committed against a religious institution in our community during a major holiday season,” Chief Michael Kent of the Burlington police said in a statement.

A vandalized statue at St. Mary’s Church, Billerica. (Courtesy Billerica Police Department)

A vandalized statue at St. Mary’s Church, Billerica. (Courtesy Billerica Police Department)

In Billerica, a parishioner at St. Mary’s Church discovered a damaged Virgin Mary statue located behind the church on March 30. Someone had broken off both its head and hands, according to police. The vandalism is believed to have occurred either late the night before or early that morning.

“We are actively investigating this disturbing crime and will continue to do so until we find those responsible,” Police Chief Daniel Rosa said in a statement. He didn’t respond to a request for comment Friday.

In Norwood, Officer Grasso said that police in all three towns have been in contact over the incidents, though it remains unclear whether or how they may be connected. Although he pointed to the distance between Norwood and the other two communities and the dissimilarities of the cases – spray paint rather than broken parts – they are still considering the possibility of a connection.

“We wouldn’t rule it out,” he said. “That’s part of the investigation as well.”

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or on Twitter @karabettis.

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