The attack that occurred sometime between late on July 14 and the morning of July 15 at Miami-Dade’s Good Shepherd Catholic Church was likely targeted, Rev. Edivaldo da Silva said. The statue was decapitated and removed from its pedestal, he said.
“They had some powerful hands to remove it. Seeing what is happening in our country, I presume so, but we don’t have 100 percent assurance,” da Silva told local news station WSVN.
The local archdiocese said that police will likely investigate the statue desecration as a hate crime.
“This crime reflects the increasing attacks on the Catholic church across the country,” the archdiocese said in a statement, referring to a series of arson attempts on churches in recent days in the midst of nationwide unrest.
Good Shepherd, the church, said in a statement to Fox News: “We totally condemn this action. We invite our community to pray for peace.”
Surveillance footage has been given to police, Mary Ross Agosta, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami, said.
“People find peace at these types of places, especially during these times,” police spokesman Argemis Colome told the Miami Herald. “We want to ensure the community that MDPD will look into the matter so people can continue to feel safe.”
The Department of Homeland Security also will investigate the matter, according to The Associated Press.
Similar acts of vandalism have included the toppling of the statue of Rev. Junipero Serra, the priest who founded the California mission system. In another incident, a man attempted to set a Florida church on fire after crashing into it earlier this month. Meanwhile, a statue of the Virgin Mary was desecrated in Tennessee over the weekend.
The pastor of St. Stephen Catholic Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, found the statue decapitated on July 18, according to the Catholic News Agency. The statue’s head hasn’t been located.
“We don’t know if this was the targeted desecration of a sacred statue and our Catholic faith, or some kind of misguided prank, but it hurts,” Jim Wogan, director of communications for the Diocese of Knoxville, said in a statement. “For whatever reason, we are living in a very chaotic time, and anger seems to be the default setting for people.”