EL CAJON, California — St. Peter’s Chaldean Catholic Cathedral in El Cajon, the seat of the Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle, and a Syriac Catholic church nearby, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, were found defaced with all kinds of graffiti the morning of Sept. 26.
“I woke up this morning to see our Cathedral defaced with pentagrams, upside down crosses, white power, swastikas, BLM, etc.,” the cathedral’s pastor, Father Daniel Shaba, tweeted. “It reminded me to pray for my brethren in Iraq that are facing persecution. Pray for the criminals who did this.”
The priest was with members of the parish cleaning the exterior of the cathedral when he told Fox 5 TV news, “It’s very devastating.”
Fox 5 also reported that shortly after deputies with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department responded to the call about vandalism at the cathedral, they were alerted to a similar incident at Our Mother of Perpetual Help Syriac Catholic Church, which is part of the Syriac Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance, based in New Jersey.
The vandalization of these two San Diego-area churches are just the latest in what has been a wave of attacks on Catholic churches and statues around the country.
These attacks prompted 16 members of the U.S. House, led by Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana, to send a letter Sept. 25 to U.S. Attorney General William Barr requesting the Department of Justice investigate this “outbreak of anti-Catholic hate crimes.”
“Bigoted criminals are threatening Catholics and undermining America’s core ideal of religious liberty,” said Banks. “The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division exists to combat spikes in targeted violence. It needs to fulfill its duty, determine who is behind this pattern of attacks and bring them to justice.”
According to some reports, Banks said, there have been more instances of anti-Catholic violence this summer than the FBI cataloged in all of 2018 — the most recent year it has on record.
In Florida, surveillance video from Incarnation Catholic Church in a suburb of Tampa released Sept. 22 shows a man lighting several pews on fire Sept. 18. Police are still searching for the suspect.
In the Diocese of El Paso, Texas, police apprehended a suspect accused of entering El Paso’s St. Patrick Cathedral Sept. 15 and destroying an almost 90-year-old statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Among other incidents have been attacks on two statues of Mary in the Diocese of Brooklyn: A statue of Mary on the grounds of Cathedral Prep School and Seminary was defaced with the word “Idol,” and at Our Lady of Solace Church in the Coney Island neighborhood, a vandal desecrated the parish’s beloved statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Earlier this summer, angry protesters toppled a statue of St. Junipero Serra in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, and in the Diocese of Orlando, Florida, a man was charged with setting a fire that severely damaged the interior of a Catholic church.
In California, Catholics were saddened when a fire gutted a 230-year-old mission church in the Los Angeles Archdiocese, though this fire has not been ruled arson.
“Whether those who committed these acts were troubled individuals crying out for help or agents of hate seeking to intimidate, the attacks are signs of a society in need of healing,” said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami and Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City in a joint statement issued July 22.
Wenski is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Coakley is chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
“In those incidents where human actions are clear, the motives still are not. As we strain to understand the destruction of these holy symbols of selfless love and devotion, we pray for any who have caused it, and we remain vigilant against more of it,” they said.