Grotto vandalized at parish in Northern Virginia

Christine Rousselle   By Christine Rousselle for CNA


Removal of the remains of statues destroyed at the grotto of Nativity parish in Burke, Va., Jan. 25, 2022. / Diocese of Arlington

Arlington, Va., Jan 27, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Police are investigating after a grotto at a Catholic parish in Burke, Virginia was vandalized Tuesday evening.

Nativity Catholic Church, is vowing to raise money to replace the statues, which were damaged beyond repair Jan. 25. The parish’s grotto depicted Our Lady of Fatima speaking to the three child visionaries.

In a Jan. 26 letter to his parish, Fr. Bob Cilinski said he was “so saddened” when the vandalism was discovered.

“The police were notified and came out to document the vandalism and begin their investigation.  Unfortunately, the statues damaged are not repairable,” said Cilinski. “The statues will be removed and we will work to replace them.”

The statues have since been removed from the grotto, and the parish and diocese are working with the Fairfax County police to investigate the vandalism. Details about any security camera footage or potential suspects were not made available.

Cilinski encouraged his flock to “be people of peace who value and respect one another,” and to pray for the person who vandalized the grotto. He described the grotto as “a place of prayer, peace, and healing.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington echoed Cilinski’s sentiments in a statement provided to CNA.

“The vandalism of a statue of Our Blessed Mother at the Church of the Nativity is a tragic and senseless defacing of the sacred. Mary stands as a symbol of peace in a world that needs her now more than ever,” said Burbidge.

“I ask that others join me in prayer for the perpetrator, as any motive behind such an act reflects a troubled soul in need of Our Lord,” said the bishop.

A local authority condemned the vandalism as an attack on the Catholic community of Fairfax County. Burke is an unincorporated section of Fairfax County, about 15 miles southwest of Arlington.

“I have been recently made aware of a vandalism that took place at the Nativity Catholic Church in Burke,” Jeffrey McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors said in a Jan. 26 statement.

“This destruction of property and disrespect to our Catholic community is alarming because, at its core, it makes people feel unsafe,” he said. “In Fairfax County, we know our diversity is our strength and we always look to bring more people into our community and make sure they are heard and represented.”

“Under all circumstances, we reject this hateful action,” said McKay. “I can assure you we will continue to make Fairfax County a community that is safe for everyone.”

Church and local officials are encouraging anyone with information regarding the vandalism to contact the Fairfax County Police Department.

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