WINDSOR TERRACE — For the second time in three days, parishes in the Diocese of Brooklyn have come under attack from vandals desecrating a statue.
“It’s definitely disconcerting. It’s very concerning that you have two incidents within three days. You wonder if it’s an act of anti-Catholic hatred,” said Msgr. Anthony Hernandez, moderator of the Curia for the diocese and vicar for canonical affairs.
Police are looking for a person who chopped off the head of baby Jesus from a statue outside the diocesan chancery at 310 Prospect Park West at some point during Sunday, May 16.
“This seemed very deliberate,” Msgr. Hernandez said of the decapitation. “There seemed to be intent here.”
The damaged statue was discovered by a facilities manager who arrived for work early Monday morning, found the severed head on the ground, and immediately contacted local police.
The statue, which depicts the Blessed Mother holding baby Jesus in her arms, is located in a small garden area next to the chancery’s front lawn and is not protected by a fence, which gave the vandal easy access.
The incident followed a disturbing act of vandalism at St. Athanasius Church in Bensonhurst, where someone toppled and badly damaged a crucifix which bore a statue of Jesus, and tore down and burned an American flag. That attack was discovered on Friday morning, May 14.
“It’s obviously distressing and unfortunate that we’ve seen so many incidents of destruction of sacred images that are so important to our faith,” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio told Currents News.
The NYPD Hate Crime Task Force is investigating both incidents. At press time, no suspects had been arrested in either incident.
“We don’t know where it’s coming from,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “It could be deranged people. It could be extremists that are Christian who think we worship idols. It could be Islamic extremists. It could be anybody. It’s a very confusing situation.”
“We hope somebody can be brought to justice,” added Msgr. Hernandez, who called on the NYPD to increase patrols around churches. “We have a great relationship with the NYPD and a lot of our parish pastors have good relationships with their local precinct commanders.”
The diocese planned to notify church pastors this week to alert them about the incidents so that they can take precautions if necessary.
Meanwhile, churches in the diocese may have to rethink their security measures, Bishop DiMarzio said.
“I think we have to change our mode a bit,” he said, adding that security cameras may have to be placed near statues outside churches as well as additional lighting installed “that would deter people.”
The diocese plans to have the damaged chancery statue repaired, officials said.
Statues play an important role in church life, according to the bishop, who said they are placed outside churches as signs of welcome.
“We want to welcome people with holy images,” he said.
“We want to preserve our right to expose, outside of our churches, sacred images. We should not refrain from doing that,” Bishop DiMarzio added. “The basic tenet of our faith is to forgive, so we forgive. But at the same time, it doesn’t mean we retreat.”