Politicians show support for Christ Church, Londonderry, parishioners
Politicians from the three main political parties in Londonderry visited Christ Church this morning in a joint show of solidarity with the congregation following this week’s break–in at the church. The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Ken Good, described the incident – during which the intruders defecated and urinated inside the church – as “sacrilege”.
The politicians who called at the church to express abhorrence at the desecration and support for the parishioners included MLAs Gary Middleton (DUP), Raymond McCartney (Sinn Féin) and Mark Durkan (SDLP). Alderman Drew Thompson who chairs the local PCSP also attended, along with Cllr John Boyle. Independent councillors Gary Donnelly and Sean Carr visited the church earlier.
The various politicians met the Rector of Christ Church, Archdeacon Robert Miller, who showed them the extent of the damage caused. The Bishop of Derry, Dr Donal McKeown, who is based just across the street in St Eugene’s Cathedral, also visited Christ Church to convey his horror at the incident.
The vandals who smashed their way into the church – apparently through a stained glass window – caused extensive damage to the church organ, which is regarded as one of the finest instruments of its kind in Ireland.
Archdeacon Miller said a decanter, used during Holy Communion services, had been stolen during the break–in. Vases of flowers were knocked over and a bible was removed from the lectern and thrown into the church sanctuary. The organ will be out of action for the foreseeable future.
Bishop Ken Good – who visited the church shortly after the vandalism was discovered – said the break–in would come as another setback to parishioners who had had to face many challenges in recent years. Christ Church was seriously damaged in an arson attack 21 years ago, after which a new organ was installed – the one damaged this week.
Bishop Good says he would love to sit down and have a conversation with the intruders. “I feel compassionate towards those who did this,” the Bishop said on local radio, “because I don’t know what their lives amount to if this is what they have to contribute to society. I’d love to talk to them, to meet them, to sit down and have a conversation with them because there are greater things that they could be doing with their lives than this.”
Archdeacon Miller said he had been heartened by the huge level of support he had received since news of the break–in emerged. He has issued an open invitation to the whole community to attend next Sunday morning’s service at Christ Church, which will begin at 11 a.m., to show solidarity with the parishioners of Christ Church.