Anti-clerical graffiti linked to the current child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church has been daubed near a chapel in Londonderry.
The graffiti referring to child abuse was painted on a wall with an arrow pointing to the doors of St Joseph's Church in the Three Patrons Parish.
Daubed in large letters with black paint, it was discovered by parishioners arriving for Mass at the church, known locally as ‘the White Chapel’, on Sunday morning. Several local people took action to paint over the slur before local clergy arrived.
The attack comes as pressure mounts on the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, to step down after fresh allegations surrounding child abuse cases.
Derry Diocesan spokesman Fr Michael Canny said that regardless of the reasoning for the attack, the incident was vandalism.
“It is obviously an act of vandalism, although as vandalism goes it is not a major thing, it’s minor. But it is distressing for people to have this sort of thing happen,” he said.
“Obviously there is speculation as to why these things happen. From time to time people for different reasons write graffiti on churches.”
Local priests have also expressed dismay over the attack. One said: “No matter what the reason behind this this is an act of vandalism that destroys people’s property.”
He added that the episode served no purpose, given the painful experience the Catholic community was currently going through.
SDLP councillor for the area, Shaun Gallagher, called for people to engage with, rather than attack, the church.
He said: “It is an absolute disgrace. This has disgusted a lot of Catholics and I think it is just wrong. If people have an issue with the church they should take it up with the church.”
Over recent days Deputy First Minister and Derry native Martin McGuinness has been among a number of high profile politicians calling for the church to take action after a television documentary accused Cardinal Brady of failing to act when alerted to abuse allegations in a historical case.
A PSNI spokesman confirmed that they are investigating the incident in Galliagh and asked anyone with information to contact police.