Community's shock after Londonderry church vandalism
Thugs smash stained glass window and trash organ
A shocking case of vandalism to a church in Londonderry has drawn cross-community condemnation.
Vandals broke into Christ Church in the city, smashing their way through the stained glass windows, defecating and urinating on the premises, ripping apart the organ and stealing a crystal teardrop decanter created in memory of a little girl who had died.
It is believed the incident happened some time between Sunday and Tuesday.
The culprits gained entry to the church on Infirmary Road by breaking a stained glass window dating back to the 1800s.
They damaged the organ, ripping out the internal elements using a broken bottle. They defecated and urinated around the church, smearing faeces on a psalm book before making off with a crystal decanter used for Holy Communion.
Archdeacon Robert Miller spent yesterday cleaning up his church and reassuring shocked and appalled parishioners.
"Whoever this was, they were determined to get in given that they broke through a metal grille, storm glazing and stained glass," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"We think they must have thought they were caught on CCTV cameras so they smashed their way into the organ to remove the recording. They cut their way into the back of the organ using a broken bottle, leaving considerable damage.
"We are hopeful that none of the pipes are damaged. It's just mindless destruction."
Archdeacon Miller said the support of the community was heartening.
"There is a very real sense for us of 'We are with you' on this," he added. "I've had people from all sides, - politicians, community members and church colleagues - contact me and visit the church today to say they are thinking of and praying for us, and asking how they can help. There is a real thankfulness for that support."
The Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rev Ken Good, described the incident as 'sacrilege'.
Bishop Donal McKeown from nearby St Eugene's Cathedral said the incident was an attack 'on all of us'.
"We have a very strong bond here," he said. "This is an attack on all of us, we all feel it. It is a huge blow for the small community here in Christ Church and it is important that they feel supported by all of us."
Sinn Fein's Raymond McCartney said: "It's difficult to think of the circumstances where anyone would think this is something they should be involved in. We have to condemn it outright."
SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan said he was "appalled" by what had happened.