Religious statue at Sarasota church destroyed by vandals

Church statue vandalized again

SARASOTA (WWSB) - Members of a Sarasota church found a treasured statue of St. Francis destroyed by vandals Wednesday morning.

As church members arrive at the Sarasota Center of Light’s healing garden on South Tuttle Avenue, they can read the words “Enter in Peace.” But early Tuesday morning, church members says someone came in and did exactly the opposite. The pastor says for this recent incident to happen right after the Easter holiday is especially troubling.

“You can never know what goes on in a person’s heart or soul and they then do something like destroy or steal St. Francis," said Pastor James Toole.

The pastor says this isn’t the first time the statue has been vandalized. The fountain and the statue of St. Francis have been there since the mid-1950s and in the past decade, the statue has either been stolen or destroyed five times.

The pastor reported the incident to Sarasota Police, but members are concerned about the vandalism to church grounds they use on a daily basis.

“It is a place of healing, it’s a place of contemplation, a place of peace and of course a place of love, yet also is a sacred space for those who hold memorial services here," said church member Gary Mantz.

Members like Mantz just wants whoever is committing these crimes to stop. “It’s kind of hard not to feel cheated of what we regard as the hallowed nature of this community," said Mantz

Parishioners now say they’ll focus on restoring the statue and the beauty of the garden, while figuring out how to secure this sacred area.

“We’ve actually considered putting in video cameras. You have to balance the spiritual with the practical so as a center we have to hold love, peace in a space open and not feel as we have to look over the people sitting in solitude or peace in this place," said Toole.

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