St. Pius X parishioners have had their faith tested for the third time in recent months following another vandalism attack on the same Jesus statue at the Catholic church.
A large statue of Christ on a six-foot crucifix in a memorial garden adjacent to the church was spray-painted pink on the chest and crotch area sometime overnight on July 23, according to Rev. John Horgan.
It’s the third act of vandalism against the church, nestled in a wooded area off Mount Seymour Road, and the exact same statue of Christ being targeted, since the Easter weekend when the legs were smashed off of the statue and thrown onto the median outside the church’s main gate.
“I think we feel quite violated by this intrusion, and this time the act is really quite a desecration or blasphemy,” Horgan told the North Shore News on Tuesday following the latest vandalism act.
North Vancouver RCMP released a surveillance image of someone spray painting the statue, and are asking the public for help identifying the suspect who appears to be a boy or young teenager.
Police can’t confirm if the young man is responsible for the other crimes at the church, but it’s alleged that he may be, according to RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Richard De Jong.
After the first incident Horgan said, while he was wary about having the Christ statue repaired, which cost $5,000, right away for fear of future vandalism at the church, he found an artist who specializes in the restoration of religious statues.
Only a few days after the figure’s legs were fixed, Horgan’s fears were realized on May 9 when he found a large rock that had been used to “pummel the statue” in an attempt to break the legs off again.
The artist had just finished putting an oil coating on the lower part of the statue last week so that it would be impermeable in the future, when a vandal struck again.
“So, to have this insistency of vandalism is really quite hateful,” said Horgan, explaining how the statue overlooks the sacred memorial garden where the ashes of 80 or so past parishioners or family members of the church are interred.
Horgan figures it’s the same person behind the desecration of the statue, explaining how there has been a similar pattern with the crimes.
“Certainly whoever has done this towards the statue has a fixation on the figure of Christ, yes,” said Horgan.
The gates to the church, which had been traditionally kept open, were shut after each episode of vandalism. Parish staff have since chained the gates to stay open. Horgan said people walk through the Saint Pius X grounds regularly as a shortcut to Brockton Crescent behind the church.
Other strange occurrences on the church property recently include a bench outside the rectory being moved in front of the church doors three or four times, along with a statue.
De Jong said police are concerned about the recent vandalism crimes at St. Pius and are taking the matter seriously. Whether or not it’s a crime against religion remains unknown until a motive is determined, added De Jong.
When told the suspect was a young person, Horgan said that saddens him and he hopes anyone who recognizes the suspect will get him some help. Horgan said he realizes there is often a lot of misunderstanding and “general ignorance” about religion.
“But we have to realize that religious values and sacred places are a very important part of the rights of all, and so it’s really an intrusion not just on private property but also on people’s right to religious faith, and the respect it’s owed to a resting place,” said Horgan.
St. Pius plans to keep the Christ statue in place while the parish waits and sees if the suspect can be found. If the person responsible is not found, Horgan said the parish may make the difficult decision to remove the figure to prevent further desecration.
Two Christmases ago a baby Jesus figure was stolen from a manger scene outside St. Pius, and later returned without one of its arms.
Police meanwhile have stepped up patrols in the area after this recent incident and have canvassed the neighbours as they search for information about the vandalism.
Anyone who recognizes the suspect is asked to call North Vancouver RCMP at 604-985-1311, quoting file 2015-17928. Anonymous tips can be made by calling B.C. Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477(TIPS).