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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholic sites in seven states have come under attack by leftist rioters.
Using the cover of darkness and the tragic murder of Minneapolis resident George Floyd as their excuse, agitators have been roaming American streets, looting stores, attacking anyone they view as a barrier to their mayhem and destroying property. Catholic churches, including four cathedrals and one basilica, have not been spared.
The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver has sustained the greatest damage. Anti-Catholic slogans were spray-painted on the exterior and the parking lot was littered with rocks. Rioters' messages included "Pedofiles" [sic], "God is dead," "There is no God" and other insolent comments.
There is potentially irreparable damage to the basilica's massive front doors. Made of brass, the two side doors display the episcopal insignia-miter and crosier while the center doors bear the papal insignia-miter with two keys.
In New York, near the front doors, two women spray-painted St. Patrick's Cathedral in broad daylight during the Saturday afternoon protests. The vandals' actions were captured on surveillance video. NYPD Crimestoppers tweeted out the video and the message: "Reward up to $2,500. Seen them?"
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, in a brief statement on behalf of New York's Commission of Religious Leaders, first acknowledged the horror of George Floyd's murder. He then said, "We respect those who want to honor George Floyd's memory with peaceful protest against the horror, evil and sin that is racism." But he warned, "We cannot endanger each other as we respond to the necessary urge to raise our voices in unison and in outrage. Looting and violence distract from the strength of our collective voice."
Our Lady of Mt. Lebanon-St. Peter in Los Angeles, the Maronite cathedral for the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, also was marred with anti-police graffiti, but by Monday, cathedral volunteers had painted over the damage.
In Minneapolis, rioters turned to St. Mary's Basilica and tried to start a fire under a pew, but it failed to spread. In an interview with the local public radio station, Abp. Bernard Hebda said the Catholic community in Minneapolis is responding with prayer. "We are looking for opportunities to share the comfort of prayer with our city."
Abp. Hebda has recently been commended for his leadership in defying a state order unfairly targeting houses of worship during the Wuhan pandemic. As a result of his actions and the support of the other Minnesota bishops, Democratic governor Tim Walz opted to change course, and issued an order to expand the resumption of limited public worship gatherings.
The cathedral rectory in Louisville, Kentucky where Abp. Joseph Kurtz lives with Fr. Michael Wimsattt, had three windows shattered with rocks about midnight on May 29. The following day, the windows of the Cathedral of the Assumption and the chancery offices were covered with plywood as a precaution after two days of violence in the city.
St. Jude Catholic Chapel in downtown Dallas also was hit by rioters and severely damaged late Friday night. According to reporting by Catholic News Agency, Fr. Jonathan Austin, chaplain of the chapel, used his Sunday homily to explain what happened. He said that after reviewing surveillance video, he "doubted that the vandals knew that they were even attacking a church, and that he suspected they were 'breaking things to break things.'"
In Chicago, churches were untouched, but the bookstore run by the Daughters of St. Paul fell victim to vandals' attacks. The sisters reported that after looters broke into the bookstore, they only took cash. Sr. Anne, FSP wrote in a blog post, "Though we assumed they would have stolen at least a few items ... a quick inventory shows that they seem to have left without taking a single saving Word. What a letdown!"
The bookstore is located near Millennium Park, just south of the Magnificent Mile of upscale retail stores and fashion outlets. Around 10 p.m. Saturday night, the sisters, who live above the bookstore, were alerted that rioters were targeting their area. They stayed upstairs, unharmed, throughout the attack.
Supporters and friends of the bookstore arrived the following day to help with the cleanup.