DENVER (CNS) – Archbishop of Denver Samuel J. Aquila on October 20 condemned a wave of anti-religious vandalism of churches and other buildings in northern Colorado, and prayed “for the end of these attacks and so that the love of God is known to all those who feel obligated to commit these acts.
The most recent attacks have been on George Washington High School in Denver, which has been plagued with anti-Semitic graffiti and “other hateful graffiti,” and the Denver Academy of the Torah, a Jewish kindergarten to grade 12 school, “Suffered the destruction of his property,” according to a press release from the archdiocese.
Both have reportedly been investigated as bias-motivated crimes, he said.
“As brothers and sisters in the faith, I recognize our common bonds and our desire to be able to pray freely without fear of being attacked or intimidated in its many forms,” Archbishop Aquila said. “We live in a divided and pluralistic society, but acts of violence and hate are never the answer to our differences. “
“I would also like to call on our local elected officials to take these acts seriously, to denounce them and to encourage all citizens to engage civilly,” he added.
“Finally, we are grateful to the police services who responded to these incidents, and to the many community members who, whatever their beliefs, contacted our parishes and offered their support and assistance in cleaning up after these attacks,” did he declare. noted.
The Archdiocese of Denver has said it is aware of at least 25 parishes or places of ministry that have been the target of vandalism, destruction of property or theft since February 2020.
Among the most recent targets of the attacks was the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Denver, which was vandalized with messages and symbols of hatred written in red paint on the cathedral.
Parish authorities estimated that the vandalism took place between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. on October 10. at least one statue. There were also references to “child rapists”.
The building was cleaned with the help of volunteers.
Prior to this incident, the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Mary in Boulder County, north of Denver, was tagged on September 29 with graffiti on church walls, doors and nearby signs. A message read: “Jesus loves abortion. In early September, St. Louis Catholic Church, also in Boulder County, was tagged with “pro-abortion” messages.
In his October 20 statement, Archbishop Aquila noted that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a press release on October 14 reporting that there were at least 100 incidents of arson, vandalism and other destruction at Catholic sites across the United States since May 2020.
That month, the USCCB’s Religious Freedom Committee began tracking such incidents.
“These incidents of vandalism range from the tragic to the obscene, from the transparent to the inexplicable,” the chairs of the USCCB’s religious freedom and domestic policy committees said in a joint statement included in the statement.
“There is still a lot that we don’t know about this phenomenon, but at a minimum, they point out that our society is in dire need of the grace of God,” they said, calling on the nation’s elected officials “to step forward. and to condemn these attacks “.
“In any case, we must reach out to the guilty with prayer and forgiveness,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the Committee for Religious Freedom, and Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of ‘Oklahoma City, Chairman of the Committee. on national justice and human development.
“When the motive was retribution for a past fault of ours, we must be reconciled; where the misunderstanding of our teachings has caused anger towards us, we must provide clarity; but this destruction must stop. It is not so, ”they said.
In response to such attacks, the Committee for Religious Freedom launched the “Beauty Heals” project with videos from various dioceses discussing the importance of sacred art.
At least 10 videos are available on YouTube; a link to the playlist of all videos is available at https://bit.ly/3peNq3o.
On June 1 of this year, the USCCB Religious Freedom Committee joined with several other faith groups to seek more funding for the Federal Agency’s nonprofit security grants program credits. emergency management in fiscal year 2022.
The program grants provide funds for target strengthening and other physical security improvements and activities for at-risk nonprofits from urban settings to suburban neighborhoods and rural communities, including places of worship, cities and towns. religious schools, community centers and other charities.