Mother of 'mentally ill' perpetrator confesses, turns own son in
Partially broken statues can be seen lying on the floor of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Keningau Diocese, Sabah. (Photo: Keningau Diocese)
A diocese in Malaysia has forgiven a churchgoer, said to be mentally ill, for vandalizing its main church.
The 34-year-old man vandalized a cross, a statue of the Virgin Mary and parts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Keningau diocese, in Sabah state on July 7.
In the photos published by the diocese, partially broken statues can be seen lying on the floor.
Keningau district police detained the man, who is allegedly mentally ill, after he was handed over by his mother.
In a press conference on July 8 broadcast live on the diocese's Facebook page, parish administrator Nancy Nelly Jones said the perpetrator walked from his house wearing a helmet then entered the church and carried out the vandalism.
She said they were collecting evidence and were going to file a report with the police when the man’s mother went to the church and said the culprit was her son.
"As Christians, we need to forgive, there is no need to condemn the perpetrator"
“His mother was still shaking when she said that her son committed the vandalism after she was told by fellow church members about the incident," she said.
Jones said she was grateful that the perpetrator was identified and that the motives were not linked to worrying issues, such as extremism.
"What we need to do now is pray for the perpetrator and his family, and help so as not to add to their burden," she said, adding that the church would try to help treat the man.
Bishop Cornelius Piong said although this case was left to the police, "as Christians, we need to forgive, there is no need to condemn the perpetrator."
He invited his flock to follow the example of St. John Paul II who forgave his would-be assassin when he was shot in 1981.
"We need to forgive, we need to pray for the perpetrator, especially because we know he is not in a normal condition," he said.
"Although this is very hard for the mother, her sincerity is very touching"
The prelate praised the man’s mother who immediately confessed her son's actions.
“Although this is very hard for the mother, her sincerity is very touching," he said.
He also invited Catholics to continue to support and pray for the perpetrator, "so that through God's mercy, he can be healed."
The bishop said the diocese would not replace the crosses that were more than 40 years old and the damaged statues that were more than 20 years old.
“Looking at these statues helps us realize that we are broken, wounded human beings who need to be healed by God's presence within us."
The bishop said that there will be a special Mass at the church on July 14 to ask for God's forgiveness, "because events like this also happen because of our negligence."
Keningau Diocese, established in 1992 as an expansion of Kota Kinabalu Archdiocese, has more than 135,000 Catholics spread over 10 parishes, accounting for almost 28 percent of the population in the diocesan territory.
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