A photo of the grotto that was shared by Reverend Bob Cilinski. (Nativity Parish Burke)

A vandal irreparably damaged several statues at a Fairfax County, Va. church on Tuesday, including a monument to the Virgin Mary.

Nativity Catholic Church said its grotto was vandalized and several statues were destroyed and will be removed. Police are investigating the incident.

Reverend Bob Cilinski, the church pastor, told parishioners the church will work to replace the damaged statues.

“The grotto is a place of prayer, peace, and healing. We pray for the person or persons who desecrated this sacred space and for peace in our world and the end of violence,” the church added.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said the destruction of property and “disrespect to our Catholic community is alarming because, at its core, it makes people feel unsafe.”

“In Fairfax County, we know our diversity is our strength and we always look to bring more people into our community and make sure they are heard and represented,” he said. “Under all circumstances, we reject this hateful action, and I can assure you we will continue to make Fairfax County a community that is safe for everyone.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has tracked at least 119 incidents of vandalism of Catholic sites in the U.S. since May 2020. The incidents, which have occurred across 30 states and Washington, D.C., include arson; statues beheaded; statue limbs cut, smashed, and painted; gravestones defaced with swastikas and anti-Catholic language and American flags next to them burned; and other destruction and vandalism.

The USCCB began tracking vandalism at Catholic sites after a pair of Catholic churches — San Gabriel Mission in California and Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Florida – were set on fire on July 11, 2020. 

Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote, called on the Biden Justice Department to take action in response to what he sees as a growing trend of anti-Catholic vandalism.

“Last month we alerted Attorney General Merrick Garland to the disturbing rash of attacks on Catholic symbols, shrines, statues and churches across the country and asked that the Department of Justice investigate,” Burch said. “Yet, as more and more incidents of vandalism targeting Catholics are reported, the Biden administration continues to turn a blind eye; choosing instead to devote resources to investigating parents who simply want a say in their children’s education. This raises serious concerns about the administration’s commitment to protecting the first amendment rights of all people of faith. Just this week a grotto and statues at a Catholic church in Virginia were destroyed. We again call on the Department of Justice to investigate these hate-filled attacks which appear driven by animosity directed specifically at Catholics.”

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