A vandalized Marian grotto at the Church of the Nativity

Statues of Our Lady of Fatima and the three children who witnessed her apparitions have been vandalized at the Church of the Nativity in Burke. According to a letter from the pastor, Father Bob Cilinski, parish members discovered the damage on the morning of January 26 and believe the vandalism occurred overnight. Police visited the cave to document the destruction and begin their investigation. The statues were damaged beyond repair and were removed from the cave.

“I am so saddened by this act of disrespect and destruction of property,” Father Cilinkski said in a message to the parish posted on the parish website and on social media. “The cave is a place of prayer, peace and healing. We pray for the person(s) who desecrated this sacred space and for peace in our world and an end to violence.

“The vandalism of a statue of Our Blessed Mother at the Church of the Nativity is a tragic and senseless degradation of the sacred,” Bishop Michael F. Burbidge said in a statement. “Mary is a symbol of peace in a world that needs her more than ever. I ask that others join me in prayer for the perpetrator, as any motive behind such an act reflects a troubled soul that needs our Lord.

On Facebook, parishioners and others expressed their grief. “I am so sad to hear this and I pray for those who felt the need for such destruction. May God have mercy on these individuals. Please pray for them,” one person said. Another said, “ I’m so sorry this vandalism happened. Like many others, I’ve used this beautiful place to pray and reflect during the pandemic. You know parishioners will help replace damaged statues, and we’ll all pray for them. responsible.

Instead of posting a photo of the destroyed statues, Father Cilisnki posted a photo of the cave taken earlier in January. “The cave was covered in freshly fallen snow, untouched, pure, spotless with a soft warm light shimmering in the twilight of the day,” he said. “Let this be a cherished image of healing and peace on this day of darkness for us. Let us be people of peace who appreciate and respect each other.

Last month, a marble statue of Our Lady of Fatima near the National Shrine Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington was vandalized, with Mary’s hands and nose severed, her face scratched and the cross on her broken crown. A spokesperson for the National Shrine said that around 10:45 p.m. on December 5, the attacker got to the statue by climbing a locked fence that surrounds a Rosary Walk and a garden that includes the statue. Video footage showed a masked person doing the damage, which was discovered the following morning. The police were investigating the vandalism.

The Fatima statue and surrounding garden were completed in 2017, the 100th anniversary of Mary’s apparitions to three shepherd children in a field near Fatima, Portugal, with her message that the Eucharistic prayer, the recitation of the rosary and penance would save souls and bring peace to the world. The white Carrara marble sculpture of Our Lady of Fatima depicted the three visionary children, Lucia dos Santos and Jacinta and Francisco Marto, at the feet of Mary.

Maraist can be reached at [email protected] or Twitter @zoeymaraistACH. Catholic News Service contributed to this article.

Martha J. Finley