Arrest made in relation to fire at Glasgow parish

Christine Rousselle   By Christine Rousselle for CNA

St. Simon’s parish in Glasgow, which was destroyed by wilful fire July 28, 2021. / Lirazelf via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Glasgow, Scotland, Aug 18, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

A man has been arrested and charged with wilful fire-raising after a Catholic church in Glasgow was destroyed last month.

The arrest was announced Aug. 17. The man arrested has not been publicly identified, but is described as being 24-years-old.

In Scotland, the charge of “wilful fire-raising” refers to when a person deliberately starts a fire that is intended to damage property.

St. Simon’s, Partick, a 163-year-old church in Glasgow, was reported to be on fire in the early morning of July 28. The church was destroyed and the fire was extinguished. One person was rescued and there were no injuries in the flames. The church was the third-oldest in Glasgow, and was originally called St. Peter’s. It was fully restored in 2008.

Carol Monaghan, a parishioner at St. Simon and a Member of Parliament in Westminster, tweeted that she was “devastated” by the loss of her church, and that her parish community had hoped that the fire was not arson.

“This was the news parishioners didn’t want to hear. We had hoped the fire was accidental,” said Monaghan Aug. 17. “To hear that someone deliberately targeted our wee church is really upsetting.”

According to the Archdiocese of Glasgow, the church was the “spiritual home to Glasgow’s Polish community.”

The archdiocese called the fire “a terrible blow for people across Glasgow,” and said the arrest “will only compound the pain for all affected.”

The police announced they do not think anyone else is connected to the fire.

“We know this fire has been devastating and has caused much distress to the local and wider community,” said a statement from Detective Inspector Kenny McDonald of the Drumchapel CID. “Along with our partners, we will continue to support our communities.”

McDonald said that the department “would like to reassure the public that we are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident,” and that the area around the church would continue to be patrolled.

St. Simon’s had been vandalized in April 2019, with statues smashed, religious displays and flowers strewn about, and the sanctuary violated.

Scotland has experienced significant sectarian division since the Scottish Reformation of the 16th century, which led to the formation of the Church of Scotland, an ecclesial community in the Calvinist and Presbyterian tradition which is the country’s largest religious community.

Sectarianism and crimes motivated by anti-Catholicism have been on the rise in Scotland in recent years.

In Glasgow, Protestant marches have faced rising opposition after a priest was assaulted while one passed by his parish in 2018.

An April 2018 poll of Catholics in Scotland found that 20 percent reported personally experiencing abuse of prejudice toward their faith; and a government report on religiously-motivated crime in 2016 and 2017 found a concentration of incidents in Glasgow.

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