Vandals behead statue at Chattanooga Catholic church before Saturday Mass services


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The Chattanooga Police Department is investigating after someone vandalized a 5-foot tall statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the St. Stephen Catholic Church on Lee Highway.

St. Stephen Pastor Manuel Perez, a priest of the Diocese of Knoxville, discovered the damaged statue a little before Mass services on Saturday morning.

The statue had been torn off of its pedestal, and its head had been removed. Church officials found no other damage on the property.

The statue is valued at $2,000, according to a police report. The report also says due to the incident happening at a church, police forwarded it to the Department of Homeland Security as a possible hate crime.

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NewsChannel 9’s Stephanie LaChance reports.

Diocese of Knoxville Director of Communications Jim Wogan tells us the Diocese was the victim vandalism at its Chancery offices in Knoxville in 2004, with statues desecrated; and also in 2010 and 2012 at Catholic schools in Oak Ridge and Knoxville.

He added, "Anytime something like this happens it is disappointing and concerning. We don’t know if this was the targeted desecration of a sacred statue, or some kind of misguided prank, but it hurts. For whatever reason we are living in a very chaotic time and anger seems to be the default setting for people. Our bishop has asked that we live by the example set in the Gospel of Matthew, to treat others as we ourselves would want to be treated."

Tennessee 3rd District Congressman Chuck Fleischmann condemned the vandalism on his Twitter account:

Fleischmann said, "This is a disturbing attack on Catholicism and religion. Sadly, it is among a series of attacks on Catholic churches that have happened in recent days. I hope that the perpetrators will be brought to justice, but I also pray that they will find their way to God as well."

Depend on us to bring you new developments on this story as we get them.


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