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Religious Statues Vandalized At 2 Churches In Vineland

VINELAND, NJ (CBS) -- Police in Vineland are searching for the suspects who vandalized statues outside two churches overnight.

According to the Vineland Police Department, officers were dispatched to the Sacred Heart Church at 922 E Landis Avenue for reported criminal mischief. An investigation revealed that sometime during the night, the suspects had vandalized several religious statues on church property.

The vandals hacked off the head of a statue of the Virgin Mary. In addition, the vandals also chopped a statue of Joseph in half.

A few hours later, officers were dispatched to St. Francis of Assisi Church at 23 W Chestnut Avenue for the same incident. A subsequent investigation revealed statues at this church had been damaged in the same manner as the ones at Sacred Heart.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph statue vandalized in Vineland, NJ. (credit: Cleve Bryan)

At the St. Francis of Assisi Church, the vandals hammered in the faces of Jesus, Mary and Joseph on a statue.

"They are not just statues, but pictures and images of people that should be remembered," parishioner Jose Rodriguez said.

For the faithful, it is an emotional attack.

"I cannot imagine what is going through the mind of a person that would deliberately go deface statues that are dedicated to our savior," Deacon Richard Sampson of Christ the Good Shepherd said.

In September, statues were also vandalized at St. Mary's in Malaga (See Related Story).

It is not just violent manner in which these statues were attacked, it's the fact that these parishes are several miles apart that leads Catholics to believe that they are clearly being targeted.

"This is not just someone randomly in a drunken spree, decided to be, a wise guy. This was something that someone decided they wanted to make some kind of a statement, and what that statement is kind of weird and ugly," Peter Feuerherd of the Diocese of Camden said.

The parishes intend to rebuild and pray.

"It is bad, but all we can do is pray for that person so they can really realize that the way they are going is not right," Rodriguez said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Vineland Police at 856-691-4111.

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