Halifax churches desecrated by Easter morning graffiti

Easter churchgoers at two Halifax Roman Catholic churches were greeted Sunday morning by obscenities spray-painted on the churches.

St. Agnes and Saint Benedict's Roman Catholic churches targeted in spray-painting incidents

Father Paul Morris of St. Agnes Parish in Halifax says he hopes the graffiti is an act of vandalism and nothing more sinister. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

It wasn't a happy Easter greeting.

Between midnight and 7 a.m. Sunday morning, vandals spray-painted obscenities on at least two Halifax Roman Catholic churches. The images and words on both sites were identical.

"Nasty things, such as f--k Jesus, was spray-painted on our outdoor sign on both sides and also across the front door of our church, the same words and also a hand giving the finger," said Father James Mallon of Saint Benedict Parish in Clayton Park.

The parking lot was packed at St. Agnes Parish on Chebucto Road in Halifax on Easter morning. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

The church plans to contact police and will be reviewing footage on its security cameras for clues.

Mallon said the timing isn't a coincidence given it's Easter Sunday.

"The key moments of the whole Christian year," he said.

The church's building manager managed to remove most of the graffiti before the first Easter mass at 9 a.m., he said.

"At least to make it illegible, anyway. It was a bit offensive. We've got several thousand people coming to our building this morning, children too," said Mallon.

The graffiti was still visible at St. Agnes Parish on Chebucto Road in west-end Halifax when parishioners arrived mid-morning Sunday.

Faye Morley was one of the people who attended mass.

Graffiti was spray-painted on St. Agnes Parish sometime early Sunday morning. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

"The father [priest] said we are not to be intimidated and to still carry on with our services and the police are looking into it," she said.

During her 39 years as a member of the church, she doesn't recall anything similar happening.

Father Paul Morris was unaware of the vandalism until some upset parishioners came into the church.

"I went out and saw it for myself. It's upsetting. There was no question in my mind it was meant to be, an impact that it would be seen by people gathering for Easter Sunday mass," he said.

'A hateful act'

Morris said it's hard to know what motivated the vandals.

"Is it petty vandalism or is it something more sinister and hate-filled in this? It is certainly a hateful act. Was it limited to ourselves and Saint Benedict's or were there more churches involved?" said Morris.

Halifax police didn't respond to a request from CBC News about whether there more incidents.

A news release issued early Sunday evening by police asked anyone with information to call them at 902-490-5020.

The church will have to pay professionals to come in and sandblast the stonework that was spray-painted, said Morris.

Prayers were being offered for the people who did the spray-painting at the Easter-morning masses at Saint Benedict's.

"Obviously, there's got to be a lot of anger and hurt there. Maybe they don't fully realize what they did," said Mallon.

'We are not going to be bullied'

He said if he could speak directly to the people involved, "We would say we love you, you are welcome ... the very person — the name they put on the door — in his name, I believe you could have peace."

Morris said St. Agnes will carry on as usual with services and activities.

"We are not going to be bullied. We are not going to be intimidated. No way. It is a joyful day and we are not going to be robbed of this."

With files from Anjuli Patil