A man barged into the Catholic Diocese of El Paso and destroyed a 90-year-old statue of Jesus Tuesday morning, when the sanctuary was open for prayer.
While the crime did “feel like an attack on our faith” and “on our community,” said Father Michael Lewis, he told KTSM-TV suspect Isaiah Cantrell “can’t damage our faith.”
“We can’t let our reaction to it forget what that statue symbolizes,” Lewis explained, “which is, again, the enduring love and mercy of Jesus Christ.”
“He can damage the statue, but he can’t damage our faith, he can’t damage our faith in what that statue represents,” the priest continued.
Congregant Doris Gurss said she and her fellow parishioners “will forgive” 30-year-old Cantrell for the destruction, “because that’s what Jesus would do.”
Bishop Mark J. Seitz told the El Paso Times the statue was among his “favorite representations of Jesus.” While he’s sad to see its demise, Seitz told the newspaper he is praying for Cantrell.
“He certainly must be a person who is greatly disturbed to have attacked this peaceful place in our city and this image of the King of Peace,” said Seitz. “I hope this might be the impetus for him to receive the help he needs.”
Local law enforcement officers arrested Cantrell Wednesday, charging the suspect with criminal mischief and possession of marijuana, according to the Times. He was soon thereafter booked into jail with bonds totaling $20,500.
Cantrell, it should be noted, has a criminal record dating back to 2010.
He has previously faced charges for marijuana possession, possession of drug paraphernalia, as well as driving while intoxicated. He was arrested Sept. 4, when police for the University of Texas at El Paso charged him with assaulting a peace officer, criminal trespassing, and resisting arrest. He was released the same day on surety bonds of $5,000. He was then arrested again Sept. 6, when El Paso police charged Cantrell with failure to identify himself, possession of marijuana, and resisting arrest. He was released Sept. 8 on bonds totaling $1,792.
This is not the first time in recent weeks a religious statue has been destroyed. In July, a statue of Jesus at a Catholic church in South Florida was found decapitated while statue of the Virgin Mary outside a Boston church was set on fire.
The destruction of faith-based symbols and statues follow comments from radical left-wing activist and political provocateur Shaun King, who said in June statues of Jesus are “a form of white supremacy” and should be torn down.