Cleanup begins at vandalized Union City church


The priest delayed the clean up so the community could contemplate the hate crime and forgiveness, but it was a decision not everyone agreed with.

At St. Anne's Catholic Church, crews went to work Thursday. They were cleaning the holiest of statues and erasing the ugliest of messages. In the midst of it all, there was grace for the people responsible. "As a priest, I offer my forgiveness and my compassion, and if they come to us for forgiveness, I will embrace them," Fr. Geoffrey Baraan told ABC7.

Parishioners first noticed the vandalism Wednesday morning, Ash Wednesday. Police consider it a hate crime and the damage is so extensive, there is outrage throughout the community. "We have a lot of sick people out there. They think this is a big joke. It's not," said parishioner Irene Curiel. For many, the blessing of a new cross to replace the one torn from the ground and split offered hope. "Seeing the desecration took a piece out of me as a person. Those scars will heal," Peter Petit said.

Father Baraan did allow the graffiti to stay up for more than a day. He wanted his parishioners to face the hurt and contemplate forgiveness. "I give the father a lot of credit. It's a lesson that people have to know. You don't do it for hate. You do it for love," Donna Agraviauor said.

The leaders of many other churches say they respectfully disagree and would have worked quickly to remove it. "We'd immediate take care of it, cover it up so as not to give whoever that did it that, 'Hey, we got free publicity.' type thing," said Fr. Jose Leon at Our Lady of the Rosary Church .

What the vandals may not have expected is for so many people to rise above their message of hate. "The good that comes out of this is that it has brought us closer as a community, so there's more solidarity," Brandon Akiona said.

It is appropriate that at this church, on this day, good triumphed over evil.

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