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Bishop of Derry pledges help for neighbouring vandalised church

Archdeacon Robert Miller surveys the damage caused during a break-in at Christ Church in Derry.
Seamus McKinney

THE Catholic bishop of Derry has pledged to do all he can to help parishioners of the city’s Protestant Christ Church after it was targeted in a sickening attack.

Vandals defecated and urinated in Christ Church during the break-in where extensive damage was caused to the church's organ.

The break-in was discovered at the Church of Ireland church on Infirmary Road late on Tuesday.

A decanter used in Holy Communion was stolen. It is also believed faeces was smeared on the pages of a psalm book.

The vandals also smashed windows, knocked over vases of flowers and removed a bible from a lectern and flung it into the church's sanctuary.

The Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rev Ken Good, said he felt deeply for the parishioners and described the incident as "sacrilege".

Christ Church rector, Robert Miller said the vandals used broken glass to smash the mechanism of the church organ which had been installed in 2000 after the original organ was destroyed in a previous attack in 1996.

Archdeacon Miller said the glass came from broken bottles of altar wine.

“I don’t think there’s any sectarian agenda. We just happened to be a place of opportunity,” he said.

The church is just 50 metres from the city’s Catholic St Eugene’s Cathedral.

Damage caused during a break-in at Christ Church in Derry. 13-9-17.

When Christ Church was extensively damaged in a sectarian arson attack in 1996, St Eugene’ parishioners rallied to its aid, raising funds to help restore the Church of Ireland place of worship.

Bishop McKeown, who pointed out that there was a long standing relationship between St Eugene’s and its near neighbour, described the attack as “desecration.”

He said: “We will do what we can to help the Church of Ireland congregation get their beautiful church back to its original state so that their regular worship of our common Lord can be resumed.”

Sinn Féin Foyle MP Elisha McCallion described the attack as wanton vandalism. She said all places of worship should be treated with respect.

“I know this city will rally round and support them in any way we can at this difficult time,” Ms McCallion said.

DUP MLA Gary Middleton described it as a "disgusting attack on a place of worship".

"It is important that those who could cause such damage are brought to justice," he added.

Derry mayor, Maolíosa McHugh, who visited the church yesterday afternoon, said he was disgusted.

“It is disgraceful that anyone would want to vandalise and destroy a church in this way and my heart goes out to the local community who are directly affected by this,” the Sinn Féin councillor said.

The incident was also condemned by SDLP deputy mayor, John Boyle who described the attack as “repugnant and sickening.”

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