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Vandal topples life-sized Jesus statue in Texas cathedral, knocks off head 

The suspect, who was apprehended by police, said that ‘Jesus was Jewish and therefore should be a darker skin color’
Thu Sep 17, 2020 - 3:08 pm EST
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Destroyed statue of Jesus in St. Patrick Cathedral, El Paso, Texas, Sept. 16, 2020. El Paso Diocese / Instagram

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EL PASO, Texas, September 17, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – In yet another instance of vandalism directed at churches and religious symbols, a 30-year-old man on Tuesday toppled and destroyed a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus located on the high altar of the cathedral in El Paso, Texas.

St. Patrick Cathedral, north of downtown, was vandalized on Sept. 16 at around 10 am, the diocese announced on Instagram. “A suspect came into the sanctuary at St. Patrick Cathedral and destroyed the almost 90-year-old statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was located in the center behind the main altar of the church. The church was open and available for prayer.”

Two photos published by the diocese show the statue, lying flat on the floor, with Christ’s head smashed in, and only the neck and part of the beard still connected to the statue. One of his outstretched arms is broken off and can be seen several feet away from the statue on the floor. The base is detached from the statue, as well.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

We are saddened to announce the vandalism at St. Patrick Cathedral earlier today. The Cathedral was vandalized this morning at around 10:00am. A suspect came into the sanctuary at St. Patrick Cathedral and destroyed the almost 90-year-old statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was located in the center behind the main altar of the church. The church was open and available for prayer. A suspect has been detained by the El Paso Police department. The police are currently continuing their investigation into the vandalism. The Rector of St. Patrick Cathedral, Fr. Trini Fuentes, said, “I am in shock and we at the Cathedral are heartbroken over such an unexpected situation.” Bishop Seitz also expressed his sadness about the damage caused to the historic Sacred Heart of Jesus Statue. “This statue is one of my favorite representations of Jesus—his arms open wide in welcome, his heart aflame with love for us. I would often take inspiration from this image as I prepared for Mass.” “As sad as I am to see a statue attacked and destroyed, I am grateful that it was not a living person,” Bishop Seitz added. “But a statue, particularly this statue, concretizes and connects us to persons and ideals that are not visible to our eyes. They reveal to us realities that are close to us, but unseen,” he said. “At this point we do not know anything about the person who carried out this assault, but he certainly must be a person who is greatly disturbed to have attacked this peaceful place in our city and this image of the King of Peace. I hope this might be the impetus for him to receive the help he needs. He will be in my prayers,” Bishop Seitz added. “I am devastated at this irreplaceable loss as I know members of this parish community and the whole Church of El Paso will be. In this moment we will reach out in confidence to the One this statue represented and I know he will console us,” Bishop Seitz concluded. St. Patrick, Patron of Ireland and our Diocese, Pray for us.

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The local NBC station reported that police identified the person arrested for vandalizing the cathedral as Isaiah Cantrell, a 30-year-old male who had been arrested several times just this month.

Cantrell “was charged with criminal mischief and possession of marijuana,” and “booked into the El Paso County Detention Facility under bonds totaling $20,500.”

Earlier this month, Cantrell had first been “arrested and charged with assault of a peace officer/judge.” A few days later, “he was arrested and charged with resisting arrest, search or transport.” On September 9, the article continued, “he was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana under two ounces; resisting arrest, search or transport and criminal trespassing.”

Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso said after the act of vandalism, “As sad as I am to see a statue attacked and destroyed, I am grateful that it was not a living person.”

Nevertheless, “a statue, particularly this statue, concretizes and connects us to persons and ideals that are not visible to our eyes. They reveal to us realities that are close to us, but unseen.”

“This statue is one of my favorite representations of Jesus—his arms open wide in welcome, his heart aflame with love for us,” Seitz explained. “I would often take inspiration from this image as I prepared for Mass.”

“I am devastated at this irreplaceable loss as I know members of this parish community and the whole Church of El Paso will be,” he added. “In this moment we will reach out in confidence to the One this statue represented and I know he will console us.”

In his statement, which was given before the suspect was arrested, Seitz characterized him as “a person who is greatly disturbed to have attacked this peaceful place in our city and this image of the King of Peace. I hope this might be the impetus for him to receive the help he needs. He will be in my prayers.”

According to the local ABC affiliate, “police said Cantrell told them the ‘skin color of the statue was the wrong color.’ Cantrell reportedly remarked that ‘Jesus was Jewish and therefore should be a darker skin color.’”

Images and statues of Christ are often adapted to local culture. In Coptic culture, or in Ethiopia, Christ is depicted in a different way than in Europe or North America. There are also, for instance, images of Christ with Chinese features.

This year, numerous churches and religious symbols have been attacked across the country.

In July, a 24-year-old man was arrested and charged with attempted murder for setting fire to Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala, Florida. He drove his car into the church, and proceeded to light two gallons of gasoline on fire. Parishioners were inside the church preparing for Mass, but were able to flee without injury.

“In an interview with sheriff’s Detective John Lightle, suspect Steven Anthony Shields said he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and is not taking his medication,” reported a local newspaper.

As part of the Black Lives Matter protests, several statues of California missionary St. Junipero Serra were destroyed or removed.

Catholics generally responded with charity to the attacks on their faith.

After a statue of Our Lady in Boston, Massachusetts, the local parish, led by Fr. John Currie, held a prayer vigil with many faithful present.

“We’re prayerfully saying to this person or persons: We love you. We forgive you. And we are here to serve and help you in any way you may need. This is why we’re here primarily,” the priest said, talking about the unknown perpetrator.

Currie said the Catholics present were a “shining light of peace, hope and love for our nation, our state, our city, and our neighborhoods during these very troubled, contentious, and challenging times.”

When a roadside shrine at St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Rockford, Illinois, was destroyed, the parish wrote, “God has placed the person or persons destroying this shrine in our lives for a few reasons: So we can forgive them as Jesus has forgiven us. So we can love them as Jesus loves us. So we can pray for their change of heart as Mary and the Saints pray for us.”

The parish encouraged its faithful to pray and make sacrifices “to seek the graces and blessing of God for those in need — and the person or persons who have been destroying our shrine are certainly poor in faith and it is our responsibility and blessing love and pray for those who are poor and in need.”


  mark seitz, statues, texas, vandalism

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