Members of a Catholic church in Northern Virginia stepped into a church garden and found a statue of the Virgin Mary beheaded.
Multiple statues were defaced outside Nativity Catholic Church in Burke, Virginia.
Father Bob Cilinski addressed the parish in a message Wednesday.
“I am so saddened by this act of disrespect and destruction of property. The statues damaged are images of the Blessed Mother and the children she appeared to at Fatima,” he wrote.
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Photos show the severed heads and hands of the figures.
Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington issued a statement.
“The vandalism of a statue of Our Blessed Mother at the Church of the Nativity is a tragic and senseless defacing of the sacred. Mary stands as a symbol of peace in a world that needs her now 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 in need of Our Lord,” he said.
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Parishioners said Thursday that they were heartbroken by the destruction.
“Just makes you sick — sick to my stomach,” Nancy Stone said.
Jeff McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, also condemned the vandalism.
“Under all circumstances, we reject this hateful action, and I can assure you we will continue to make Fairfax County a community that is safe for everyone,” he said in a statement.
An investigation by Fairfax County police is underway. Anyone with information is asked to contact police.
The statues cannot be repaired, and efforts to replace them will begin, Cilinski said.
He shared with the congregation a photo of the church grotto earlier this month, after heavy snowfall.
“May this be a cherished image of healing and peace on this day of some darkness for us,” he wrote.
Last month in D.C., a masked man used a hammer to smash a statue at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.