LEICESTER, United Kingdom – A church in eastern England has been vandalized and desecrated with satanic symbols.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Great Yarmouth, a town in Norfolk, was attacked on Tuesday night. Norfolk police on Friday announced they have arrested a 17-year-old in connection with the crime.
CCTV footage showed a young man light fires in the church, including an attempt to burn an icon from the altar. He then left a picture of a Satanist emblem in its place on the altar.
“I was shocked and saddened when I discovered what had happened. When I looked at the altar I saw this picture of something satanic. My immediate thought was to get some holy water and use it with prayer to nullify what the person had done,” said Father Anthony Nwankwo.
“Our parishioners are shocked and sad about what has happened but I was very encouraged by the number of people who came to Mass this morning in support,” he told the website of the Diocese of East Anglia.
Nwankwo said he was not cancelling Holy Week services, but that he would not use the altar or sanctuary until it had been re-consecrated, since “the altar has been desecrated.”
The priest said this is the second such incident to happen in the church, noting that four months ago a satanic picture was left at the foot of a cross in the back of the church.
“It is a clear attack on the church and our religion which is not acceptable. If people do not like what we do here they can just stay away. Such an attack on our church can never succeed,” he said.
East Anglia Bishop Alan Hopes said he was “very saddened” that such an incident happened during Holy Week.
“I am hoping it is not a hate crime, but whoever did it needs to know that he is already forgiven because that is part of who we are as Christians, but we pray that this won’t happen again,” he told the diocesan website. “Whatever happens, our churches should remain open because they are places where people can find sanctuary and God’s presence, somewhere to pray and bring their concerns to God.”