(NECN: Mike Cronin) - At this heightened time of the holidays, church goers in Charlton, Mass. were saddened to learn that one of the town's churches was robbed and vandalized.
The words ‘God is dead’ is written on a cross at the Holy Virgin Mary spiritual vineyard in Charlton. There were drawings of upside down crosses and a pentagram. Crosses are missing from a chapel and gazebo. The church is still recovering from a series of vandalism acts committed last month.
“That's my own home. That's my heart. That's where I praise God. And for them to destroy that, it affects me very much,” says Father Samuel Hanna .Father Hanna says what really broke his heart was the damage done to the chapel's alter at the Coptic Christian church.
“The oil that we use was thrown all over the walls. It was a complete disaster,” the priest says.
Police say 19-year-old Zachary Yurasha committed the crime. On Monday, he pled not guilty to breaking and entering, malicious destruction and larceny. Police were able to identify the man's fingerprints on items he vandalized. “You're shocked. That someone could have that much hatred towards a church and to do that much damage to a place where people go to find peace,” says Father Hanna.
One church member says he came to America in search of freedom but these acts have left him discouraged.“We left our country in Egypt to come here to feel this safety and other stuff like this, so we wonder why he did this,” says Aneis Zkhry.Police say damages amount to five thousand dollars at the church.
While some parishoners were upset, one is ready to forgive.“I don't know why he did that. Really, I can't say anything about that. But if anything, we forgive for him. That's it,” says Mina Ferig.And though Father Hanna was devastated by the cruel acts, he's hoping others can learn a lesson from the incident.“There's always a message to be taken,” says Father Hanna. “I think we have to work harder to give the message of love because there's a lot of people who hate in this world.”