For close to a century, the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue welcomed congregants to the St. Patrick’s Cathedral in El Paso, Texas. On Monday, anti-Christian vandals attacked the church, knocking over the statue of Jesus Christ and beheading him. The attack occurred in broad daylight at the El Paso church while the sanctuary was open to the public for an open prayer session.

Police have not been able to find anyone responsible for the attack and have no clue as to the attacker’s motivation. However, police are looking into links to “white supremacy” as some people have proclaimed Christianity as a religion that fosters white supremacy beliefs among Americans.

Bishop Seitz could not believe that someone would come into the cathedral and ruin the Jesus statue during an open prayer session.

“This statue is one of my favorite representations of Jesus—his arms open wide in welcome, his heart aflame with love for us,” he said via an Instagram post. “I would often take inspiration from this image as I prepared for Mass.”

The cathedral also shared the news about the attack on social media, writing:

“We are saddened to announce the vandalism at St. Patrick Cathedral earlier today. The Cathedral was vandalized this morning at around 10:00 am. A suspect came into the sanctuary at St. Patrick Cathedral and destroyed the almost 90-year-old statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was located in the center behind the main altar of the church. The church was open and available for prayer. A suspect has been detained by the El Paso Police department. The police are currently continuing their investigation into the vandalism.”

The post also featured a comment from the Rector of St. Patrick Cathedral, Fr. Trini Fuentes, who said, “I am in shock, and we at the Cathedral are heartbroken over such an unexpected situation.”

“As sad as I am to see a statue attacked and destroyed, I am grateful that it was not a living person,” Bishop Seitz added. “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.

“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,” Bishop Seitz added.

“I am devastated at this irreplaceable loss as I know members of this parish community and the whole Church of El Paso will be. At this moment, we will reach out in confidence to the One this statue represented, and I know he will console us,” Bishop Seitz concluded.

Police identified the man allegedly responsible for the vandalism as 30-year-old Isaiah Cantrell, who has been charged with criminal mischief and possession of marijuana. He was brought into the El Paso County Detention Facility.

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