MANATEE COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – On Tuesday morning, staff at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs found disturbing graffiti on one of their shrines. The vandals painted 666 and other inappropriate messages onto a shrine for Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.
The criminals painted over the statue’s face and hands, and wrote ‘666’ on the statue, the walls, and around the shrine. Parish secretary MaryEllen Smith said, “To do this on a place like this is wrong on every level.”
Mark Silverman doesn’t even attend the church, but he pulled over to look because he was so horrified. “What they’re doing right now at a church, that’s in your face, that’s sacred ground and that is wrong, and that stuff begins at home in my opinion,” said Silverman.
The church has filed a report with the Sheriff’s Office and is making arrangements to have the graffiti cleaned. But Smith said she and the church staff are not angry. Instead, they have chosen to forgive. “Because that’s what Jesus wants, that’s what Jesus said to do,” Smith explained.
She added, “I do feel sorry for these people because they don’t have any idea of faith.” Smith does hope the criminals come forward, because she wants to invite them to come to church. “We will welcome you, we forgive you. As a faith community, we forgive,” she said.