Friday, January 9. A man was kneeling in prayer before the statue of the revered Madonna, with the photograph of a loved one in hand, in the small chapel of St. Barnabas in Perugia (Italy), when he was attacked by five “immigrants.”
The first thing they did was rip the photo from his hands.
Next they unleashed their hatred against the image of the Virgin Mary. They broke the statue to pieces and then urinated on it.
Don Scarda, pastor of St. Barnabas, said the event was led by five “foreigners.” By the time police arrived at the chapel, the unidentified attackers had already fled.
The incident has caused a stir among locals. Some have lambasted Pope Francis who is accused of appeasing immigrants—mostly Muslims—to wild extremes. Earlier he had said that “Migrants, through their own humanity, cultural values, expand the sense of human brotherhood.”
Although the Diocese condemned the act of sacrilege against the Madonna statue, it also followed the Pope’s lead by absolving Islam of any responsibility for what happened. In the words of Monsignor Paolo Giulietti, the auxiliary bishop of Città della Pieve, near Perugia:
For Islam, the figure of Mary is very important: she is the mother of the Prophet Jesus conceived in virginity, and the Blessed Virgin is the most holy woman. Muslims pray at the Marian shrines in the Middle East. We cannot see in this act of vandalism—which as I said is wrong in every way—an episode of religious hatred. It is important not to feed mutual suspicion, especially at this time.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis has called on Catholics and Western people in general to refrain from insulting other religions—namely Islam: “It’s normal, it’s normal [violence]. One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.”
He made these statements on January 16, apparently in reference to the Charlie Hebdo massacre, when armed Muslims killed a dozen non-Muslims working for a satirical magazine that had mocked Islamic prophet Muhammad.
One wonders if the Pope would call it “normal” if members of his own flock were to murder those who urinated on the Virgin statue?
Thanks to funding from neighbors, the desecrated image could be restored and replaced in its original location. Hundreds of Catholics participated that day in a rosary of relief.