Community unites to condemn arson attack on Catholic church in north Belfast
Catholic clergy and parishioners at a church on the outskirts of north Belfast have taken "great consolation" from the cross-community condemnation of an arson attack.
Scorch damage was caused to a door in the attack on St Mary's Star of the Sea on the Shore Road near Whitehouse in Newtownabbey at 1.30am on Sunday.
It is the latest in a series of hate crimes against the church.
A Catholic Church spokesman said: "The cowardly and destructive attack on St Mary's Star of the Sea Church has left the parish priest, parishioners and wider community deeply appalled and upset.
"This futile action is completely at variance with the very strong cross-community relationships experienced by local clergy and parishioners and they have taken great consolation in receiving support from all following this attack on their place of worship.
"Such senseless actions only serve to escalate tensions at a time of the year when every effort must be made by all citizens to promote respect and peace.
"Places of worship hold deep significance for their entire community and for their congregation and they should not be targeted.
" I appeal to all who have information in relation to this attack on Star of the Sea Church to assist the PSNI with their investigations," the Church spokesperson said. The Church authorities have made strenuous efforts to protect the building at Whitehouse.
The windows are covered by metal grilles and at the adjacent parochial house a sign warns there is 24-hour CCTV surveillance in operation.
No one was present in the church grounds or at the parochial house yesterday afternoon when the Belfast Telegraph visited.
Detectives in Newtownabbey are appealing for information about the arson attack, which they are treating as a hate crime.
DUP North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds condemned the arsonists.
He said: "This is a senseless attack. Those who carried out this utterly appalling action only want to stir up tensions and cause offence. I hope everyone will be calm and there will not be a tit-for-tat response."