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People praying next to the San Gabriel Mission after the historic church was severely damaged by a fire People praying next to the San Gabriel Mission after the historic church was severely damaged by a fire  (ANSA)

Violence against Catholic sites: US Bishops urge love in response to hatred

The Bishops of the United States respond to reports of increasing incidents of church vandalism and fires, and urge understanding and love in response to confusion and hatred.

By Vatican News

The Bishops’ Conference of the United States, the USCCB, has issued a statement on Wednesday in response to numerous attacks against Catholic churches, statues, and other religious symbols.

“Our nation finds itself in an extraordinary hour of cultural conflict,” reads the statement from Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City.

Acts of vandalism and destruction

The Archbishops, chairmen respectively of the USCCB’s Committee on Religious Liberty and Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, point to numerous acts of violence in recent weeks, including an attack in Florida when a driver rammed his car into a church and attempted to set the building on fire. Numerous statues of Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin have also “been defaced or even beheaded” in recent weeks, the Bishops note.

The historic mission church of San Gabriel in Los Angeles was destroyed by fire earlier in July, and the cause is still unknown.

Motives unclear

“Whether those who committed these acts were troubled individuals crying out for help or agents of hate seeking to intimidate, the attacks are signs of a society in need of healing,” the Archbishops say.

Acknowledging that the motives behind the incidents remain unclear, the Archbishops say they are praying for those responsible, adding “we remain vigilant against more of it."

Responding to hatred with love

In their statement, the Archbishops insist, “the path forward must be through the compassion and understanding practiced and taught by Jesus and His Holy Mother.” They encourage contemplation of “images of these examples of God’s love” rather than destruction of them.

“Following the example of Our Lord,” the two Archbishops say, “we respond to confusion with understanding and to hatred with love.”

23 July 2020, 09:45