VINELAND — City police are searching for suspects in what they are calling a “heinous” crime — the destruction of statues at two local Catholic churches.
The damage involves six statues outside Sacred Heart Church on East Landis Avenue and at least one statue at the Divine Mercy Parish Church on Chestnut Avenue.
Sacred Heart’s damage includes the hands broken off a statue of the Blessed Mother, a statue of St. Joseph literally cut in two, and the head knocked from a statue of Jesus holding the Sacred Heart.
The damage to the St. Joseph statue is particularly troubling to Msgr. John Burton, pastor of Christ the Good Shepherd Parish, which includes Sacred Heart. Burton said the statue was put up in memory of one of his Sacred Heart High School classmates who was killed in a hit-and-run automobile accident in 1963.
Burton said it is “hard to comprehend the depth of rage or hatred or anger or whatever to do something like this.”
“It just seems calculated,” he said. “It’s really, really curious that something like that would happen.”
The person or persons responsible for the acts are “probably in much greater need of help than many of us,” he said.
Burton said the parish will probably have the statues repaired. The restoration work will likely be expensive, as some of the statues are all marble, he said.
Officials at Devine Mercy were not available for comment.
However, a statue in front of the church portrays the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph holding an infant Jesus. Holes were knocked through one eye of Mary and Joseph, and another hole was knocked through the top of the infant’s head.
Police said they went to Sacred Heart on Thursday for a reported criminal mischief complaint only to find several damaged statues. Police said they had just finished the reports on the Sacred Heart incident when they were called to Divine Mercy to find more damaged statues.
While police were not available to say whether they believe the same person or persons are responsible for the damage, they said in a statement that statues at Divine Mercy were damaged in the same way as those at Sacred Heart.
Police said anyone with information about the incident can call the Police Department at 856-691-4111.
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