‘No sectarian motive’ was behind a serious attack on a Catholic Church in Kilkeel, said the PSNI last night following the arrest of a man.
“Police have arrested a male in connection to the criminal damage which was caused to a church in Kilkeel.
“There is no sectarian motive”
Fr Michael Murray had earlier urged for no retaliation of any sort after Our Lady of the Angels Oratory on Greencastle St was broken into and vandalised between 11pm Wednesday and 9am on Thursday.
“When I walked in this morning I was just in total shock and disbelief that anyone could do this in a church,” he told the News Letter on Thursday, before police clarified the non-sectarian motive.
“Anything that could be broken was broken. The only things left intact are the seating and the altar.
“All three of the statues were broken and all 14 stations of the cross were taken off the wall and smashed.
“The six stained-glass windows around the altar were also smashed, the cross behind the altar and the new lectern.”
Local Presbyterian clergy the Rev William Bingham and the Rev Stephen Johnston both visited him yesterday, as did UKIP councillor Henry Reilly and SDLP MLA Sean Rogers, with Sinn Fein councillor Sean Doran phoning from his holiday destination.
Although insurance will cover the damage many of the items can never be replaced.
“All of the statues were important to the parishioners, having mostly been presented as gifts,” he said.
Also destroyed was the large marble statue of an angel holding a water font, a gift from children of the parish in 1961. “You cannot replace the people’s feelings that are involved,” he said.
“We would ask for no retaliation of any sort. This was caused by a mindless minority but it could do a lot of damage to relationships.”
PSNI Superintendent Simon Walls said any attack on a place of worship “must be condemned”.
There was widespread condemnation of the attck yesterday by representatives, who were responding before police had discounted the sectarian motive.
SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie said the community “will be horrified to learn of this attack”, while Sinn Féin MLA Caitríona Ruane said the attack comes “after a sectarian gun attack on a car in Clough and ongoing intimidation and harassment in the area”.
Bishop Noel Treanor said “the act of pointless destruction was calculated to escalate tensions” and appealed to those in leadership “to do all within their power to dissipate and calm fears and apprehensions”.
Orange Order Grand Secretary Drew Nelson “utterly” condemned the attack, saying it was “as shameful and sinful as an attack on an Orange hall”.