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Fresno parish church vandalized

Damage at St. Alphonsus parish church in Fresno, Calif., where the building was accessed in the early hours of Jan. 22, 2022. / Chandler Marquez/Diocese of Fresno.

Fresno, Calif., Jan 25, 2022 / 16:52 pm (CNA).

St. Alphonsus parish in Fresno was broken into overnight on Saturday. Both the tabernacle and a Marian shrine were vandalized.

Father Carlos Serrano, the pastor of St. Alphonsus, first discovered damage to the tabernacle the morning of Jan. 22. 

“When going through the church, he saw the other damage,” Chandler Marquez, communications director for the Diocese of Fresno, told CNA.

The parish has a Marian statue behind glass, where people often come to pray. Beside the statue is a box with monetary donations for the parish made in thanksgiving. Marquez said the vandal took the box with the donations.

The Fresno police investigated the incident, and were able to recover surveillance images of the vandal. Police assessed the monetary damage to the church at $35,000.

Marquez told KMPH that “The community is devastated. To begin it’s a direct attack on the most sacred part of the church but also to have the Shrine of our Blessed Mother attacked. Culturally that means so much to this community.”

Marquez added that the tabernacle’s doors were damaged enough that it is being examined to determine whether it can be restored.

St. Alphonsus parish was established in 1908, and it serves 700 families. Masses at the parish are said in English and Spanish.

In a message marking Religious Freedom Day earlier this month, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York stated that “For nearly two years, the U.S. bishops have noticed a disturbing trend of Catholic churches being vandalized and statues being smashed.”

“We are not alone. Our friends from other faith groups experience these outbursts too, and for some communities, they occur far more frequently,” he said.