Priest in Northern Ireland prays for church arsonists

Derry, Northern Ireland, May 28, 2019 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- The pastor of Holy Family parish in Derry had led prayers for the young people who committed an arson attack at the church last week. No one was harmed, but both the church and parochial house were damaged.

CCTV showed a group of young people starting a fire in a shed on the parish property the night of May 24. The Police Service of Northern Ireland have said, “we believe two males may have been involved in starting this fire and we are keen to identify them.”

An event was being held at the time in the parochial house, and those in attendance were evacuated to safety.

Fr. Patrick O’Kane told the Belfast Telegraph that “nobody was injured, and that’s the main thing, but there is quite a lot of damage.”

“The people who did it – they did it deliberately. We could see them on the cameras deliberately setting the fire. It wasn’t accidental,” he reflected.

“But we prayed for them at Mass today. I told them I had forgiven them, and we prayed for the young people, because anybody who does things like that has obviously a very disturbed mind.”

Gary Middleton, a Member of the Legislative Assembly from the Democratic Unionist Party and a Presbyterian, commented that “it’s just such a sad act. How can people stoop so low? Never mind targeting any premises, but a church I think is particularly low.”

“So many people from all faiths and backgrounds have been united in saying that what happened at Holy Family was absolutely dreadful,” Middleton added.

Last year, St. Mary’s parish in Limavady, within 20 miles of Derry, was vandalized with sectarian graffiti.

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