ROME — Unidentified vandals desecrated a Catholic church in the northern Italian town of Scandiano, smashing the tabernacle and decapitating the statue of the Virgin Mary, Italian media reported Monday.
The tabernacle was jimmied open, and the consecrated hosts were strewn on the floor along with the sacred vessels and other liturgical furnishings were destroyed, Avvenire revealed.
According to Reggionline, the bishop of Reggio Emilia, Guastalla Massimo Camisasca, personally officiated a special Mass on Sunday in the vandalized church of Ca’ de Caroli, offering prayers for the repentance of the perpetrators.
The bishop firmly condemned the incident but invited the entire Catholic community to forgive those responsible. He also recalled, however, that such an act of sacrilege, from the canonical point of view, automatically entails excommunication if the perpetrators were Catholic.
The local community rallied around the elderly parish priest Father Quirino Bertoldi, who was reportedly strongly shaken by the vandalism. Father Bertoldi posted a photo of the damaged statue of Mary on his Facebook page.
It is believed that the profanation took place during the night between Sunday 29 and Monday 30 August, but the church is not equipped with a video surveillance system and is only open a few days each week, so the vandalism was not discovered until several days later.
According to Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, it seems that the motive of theft can be excluded; given the “brutal fury” of the incident, it is more likely that it stemmed from hatred against the Church.