A marble statute of Our Lady of Fatima outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., suffered "irreparable damage" at the hands of a still unidentified assailant and will be replaced, a basilica spokesperson has told CNA.
Police now know the identity of a "suspect" sought in connection with the December 5 attack, the spokesperson said, referring further questions about the investigation to the Metropolitan Police Department.
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department confirmed that a "person of interest" has been identified but said police are not releasing any further information at this time. No arrests have been reported.
In another development, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, has announced that a public rosary in "response to the recent vandalism of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima" will take place at the basilica on Sunday, January 16 in observance of Religious Freedom Day.
“I encourage all Catholics to participate in this event, as we pray that all religious communities would be free to worship without fear and to continue to bless this great country," Dolan said in a statement.
“Religious art instructs and inspires. It reminds us that we live most fully when we direct our lives toward our Creator and our neighbors,” Dolan said. “On the other hand, the defacement of such public symbols of the sacred degrades our life together and harms the common good.”
Police have shared surveillance footage that shows a man wearing a mask approaching the Marian statue located outside the basilica. The man steps up to the statue, withdraws a mallet or hammer-like tool, and appears to strike at the statue's hands. He climbs back down only to step up again and repeatedly whack at the statute's face, sending pieces of marble flying.
The basilica spokesperson told CNA the cost of the Carrara marble statue's replacement is “to be determined.” No decision has been made yet about when or how the existing statue will be removed and disposed of, the spokesperson said.
The statue is valued at $250,000, according to a police report obtained by CNA. The case is not being treated as a hate crime, police have said.