Police have arrested a man suspected of beheading and toppling a historic statue of Jesus in El Paso’s Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on Tuesday.
The suspect, 30-year-old Isaiah Cantrell, said that he destroyed the 90-year-old statue because Jesus’s skin color was wrong and should have been darker.
The “skin color of the statue was the wrong color,” Cantrell said, according to a court affidavit. “Jesus was Jewish and therefore should be a darker skin color.”
The attack on the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was located behind the main altar of the church, occurred at around 10:00 am, when the church was open for private prayer.
“This statue is one of my favorite representations of Jesus — his arms open wide in welcome, his heart aflame with love for us. I would often take inspiration from this image as I prepared for Mass,” said El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz in a statement.
“As sad as I am to see a statue attacked and destroyed, I am grateful that it was not a living person. But a statue, particularly this statue, concretizes and connects us to persons and ideals that are not visible to our eyes. They reveal to us realities that are close to us, but unseen,” he said.
“At this point we do not know anything about the person who carried out this assault, but he certainly must be a person who is greatly disturbed to have attacked this peaceful place in our city and this image of the King of Peace. I hope this might be the impetus for him to receive the help he needs. He will be in my prayers,” Seitz said.
“I am devastated at this irreplaceable loss as I know members of this parish community and the whole Church of El Paso will be,” Seitz concluded. “In this moment we will reach out in confidence to the One this statue represented, and I know he will console us.”
Last year, arsonists set fire to three Catholic churches in the El Paso area, including St. Patrick Cathedral. The cases are still unresolved, and the FBI has offered rewards totaling $15,000 for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators.