Religious statue vandalized in N.J.

HAMILTON TWP., N.J. - September 21, 2009 It happened in a Hamilton Township grotto. It was built six years ago as a quiet outdoor space for the parishioners of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Paris to pray. In the center stands a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Over the weekend vandals left their mark by vandalizing the statue. The damage was spotted by Hamilton Township Police on Saturday evening.

"I was really saddened to see what I witnessed: The statue pushed over, the cement planter, obviously, was broken over her face," said the church's pastor, the Rev. Jeff Kegley.

The 500 pound statue was uprighted by maintenance men and parishioners before a picnic on Sunday. The hands had to be temporarily reattached.

"The hands were over here by the bushes, so they were already removed somehow," said the Rev. Kegley.

Michael Tomasulo has been a parishioner for nearly 50 years, and was upset by the vandalism.

"They're miserable. They've got nothing esle to do. It's got to be kids, and it all goes back to the parents," Tomasulo said.

"We don't want condemn them, we don't want to judge them. We just want to pray for God's mercy for them, and they experience the love of God," said the Rev. Kegley.

Police believe this crime was simply an act of vandalism, not a hate crime. An investigation continues.

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