ROCHESTER, Minnesota — Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester expressed outrage Nov. 2 over the desecration of several graves and the columbarium at the diocese’s Calvary Cemetery in Rochester “with hateful and obscene graffiti” on Halloween night.
He assured his prayers for families “of those whose final resting places were so dishonored.”
The diocese “will cooperate with police in assuring that those responsible are brought to justice,” he added in a statement issued on All Souls’ Day, when the Catholic Church “honors our beloved dead.”
“Cemetery staff is working diligently to repair the damage and restore the grounds,” Barron said, and he pledged to bless and reconsecrate “this sacred space” once the staff’s task “is completed.”
“May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace,” Barron added.
Arson, vandalism and other destruction have taken place at more than 100 Catholic sites across the United States since May 2020.
In October 2021, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty began tracking such incidents, saying: “These incidents of vandalism have ranged from the tragic to the obscene, from the transparent to the inexplicable.”
“There remains much we do not know about this phenomenon, but at a minimum, they underscore that our society is in sore need of God’s grace,” said a joint statement issued by the chairmen of the bishops’ religious liberty and domestic policy committees.
They called on the nation’s elected officials “to step forward and condemn these attacks.”
In a statement issued to mark Religious Freedom Day 2022, observed Jan. 16, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, the religious liberty committee chairman, lamented attacks on houses of worship as an assault on their respective individual communities that gather there in prayer.
Such vandalism also is “an attack on the founding principle of America as a place where all people can practice their faith freely,” he said. “And it is an attack on the human spirit, which yearns to know the truth about God and how to act in light of the truth.”
Dolan called on people to promote religious freedom as a treasured right for all Americans.