A church in Sydney’s south-west has responded to the defacing of its Marian statue with prayers for forgiveness and healing.
The statue of the Blessed Virgin in a large outdoor grotto at St John the Beloved Melkite Catholic Church in Greenacre was vandalised in late September, causing damage to the plaster veil and face.
After an outpouring of distress on social media, parish priest Fr Ibrahim Sultan invited local Catholics to gather for the rosary and a procession of the damaged statue and the church’s icon of the Theotokos on the church grounds.
On 5 October, parishioners and friends from St John the Beloved, St Charbel’s Maronite Catholic Church in Punchbowl and St Jerome’s Catholic Church in Lakemba met at the shrine for the prayer service.
The grotto was also re-dedicated to Our Lady after the act of vandalism.
The grotto and statue were donated by a parishioner and had become a “prayer stop” for people visiting the church, parish office or school.
Fr Ibrahim said the prayers and procession were a way of expressing regret to the Blessed Virgin for the “sacrilegious attack on her image.”
“It is also our way of asking our Lady to pray for those who showed such contempt for her, so that she will forgive them, intercede for them and gain for them the grace of repentance,” he said.