A Catholic church in Union City was defaced on Ash Wednesday with spray-painted pentagrams and messages about Satan, vandalism that is being investigated as a hate crime, police said.
Vandals knocked down a wooden cross outside St. Anne’s Church at Cabello and Dyer streets and used black spray paint to deface a statue and write on the church’s exterior walls, police said Thursday.
“Satan,” “Carpe noctem” and a pentagram were drawn on the walls, and spray paint covered the faces of a statue of Mary and Joseph, police said. Carpe noctem is Latin for “seize the night.”
Investigators have classified the incident as a hate crime because of the nature and timing of the vandalism. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, a period of repentance and moderation for many Christians that precedes Easter.
“My gut feeling is that it might be local kids,” said police Cmdr. Ben Horner. “They were going for shock value, and they certainly achieved that.”
He added, “Even gang members leave churches alone.”
St. Anne’s pastor delivered a sermon Wednesday about the value of forgiving those who harm.
“We need to remember to always counter violence and hatred with love and compassion,” said the Rev. Geoffrey Baraan.
He said his parishioners had reacted with surprise, sadness and anger to the vandalism, but not hatred.
A church member has already built an 8-foot wooden cross to replace the one that was knocked down, Baraan said.