On Monday, Diocese of Knoxville Bishop Richard Stika announced that the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the grounds of Saint Stephen Catholic Church in Chattanooga was knocked over and beheaded.
What a strange time when live it. Over the weekend, a outdoor statue of the Blessed Mother was beheaded at St. Stephen Parish in Chattanooga. This is occurring at various spots throughout the United States.
— Bishop Rick Stika (@BishopStika) July 13, 2020
Pastor of the parish church Father Manuel Perez was walking the church grounds Saturday morning when he found the statue knocked over with the head missing. About five feet tall, the statue is worth two thousand dollars. The case has since been forwarded to the Department of Homeland Security by the police citing a possible hate crime.
“Father Perez said that he looked around the church grounds to see if he could find a missing head and he couldn’t locate it.”
Diocese of Knoxville Director of Communications Jim Wogan responded to the vandalism in a statement:
“Anytime something like this happens it is disappointing and concerning. We don’t know if this was the targeted desecration of a sacred statue, or some kind of misguided prank, but it hurts. For whatever reason we are living in a very chaotic time and anger seems to be the default setting for people. Our bishop has asked that we live by the example set in the Gospel of Matthew, to treat others as we ourselves would want to be treated.”
Tennessee Congressman Chuck Fleischmann also tweeted about the vandalism:
This is a disturbing attack on Catholicism and religion.
Sadly, it is among a series of attacks on Catholic churches that have happened in recent days.
I hope that the perpetrators will be brought to justice, but I also pray that they will find their way to God as well. https://t.co/MFPHZhqn3h
— Chuck Fleischmann (@RepChuck) July 15, 2020
The beheading in Tennessee was one of three attacks on the Church last weekend: an Ocala, Florida parish and a mission founded by Saint Junipero Serra in California were also vandalized by arsonist setting them ablaze.