Parishioners from the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul and St. Stephen Church gathered on Sunday, July 19, in front of the basilica’s Marian Grotto to pray the rosary in reparation for sins against holy things.
The rosary was in response to recent vandalism and arson of churches and statues across the country, including at St. Stephen on the weekend of July 11-12.
Father Manuel Pérez, pastor of St. Stephen in Chattanooga, discovered a 5-foot-tall statue of the Blessed Mother outside the church was beheaded as he walked the parish grounds before Mass on July 11. No one was injured, and no other damage was reported.
Father David Carter, rector of the basilica, led the rosary, with more than three dozen faithful participating.
The incident at St. Stephen was the focus of local and national media coverage due to recent similar incidents of desecrated statues and Catholic Church buildings. An official from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security investigated the St. Stephen vandalism on July 16. Homeland Security is investigating the instances of church vandalism across the United States as possible hate crimes.