LOWER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- Cardinal Timothy Dolan visited a church and led a service two weeks after statues were beheaded and smashed at a Catholic church on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
The Our Lady of Sorrows Church on the Lower East Side is missing two of the three shepherd children who were said to have witnessed an appearance of the virgin Mary in Fatima, Portugal in 1917.
Two weeks ago, someone entered the church's garden and smashed the statues, decapitating the two little girls.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan joined the parishioners Tuesday night as they rounded the corner and walked to the garden. They spoke and sang the prayers of the rosary in a show of community, and faith that something good can come of this.
"I hope they respect a little more. Not to destroy the image that means a lot to us," parishioner Jose Goris said.
"That's what this country stands for, freedom of religion," parishioner Herbert Mendes said.
The statues of the two little girls were so badly damaged they can't be repaired, they have to be replaced, and that could take some time.
"The people that do the damage there have no heart, because what is this statue doing to do to anybody," parishioner Margarita Alvarez Zambrana said.
An archdiocese warehouse on Staten Island that would normally provide them doesn't currently have any of the children of Fatima.
Cardinal Dolan said whoever did this was shrewd. A gate which leads to the garden entrance was closed, so whoever got into the garden scaled the fence even with barbed wire on top.
"But then the destruction, that's the other piece, that's what we didn't understand," Father Tom McNamara said
Now they church is looking into cameras and razor wire to deter more vandalism.
Unlike the recent theft of a tabernacle, valued at $2 million, at a Catholic church in Brooklyn, which Dolan said was probably just a case of theft, he believes this incident was a hate crime.
He had a message to the enduring congregation at Our Lady of Sorrows.
"Goodness, truth and beauty are going to have the last word, not evil and viciousness and ugliness and division," Dolan said.
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