Damage to the shrine was noticed by devotees who were returning home after the Sunday mass
Miscreants damaged a shrine of the Lady of Loretto on the premises of Our Lady of Loretto Church in Bantwal, 30 km from Mangalore early on Sunday. Hundreds of devotees and local residents staged a daylong protest on the church premises on Sundayseeking the arrest of the miscreants.
Parish priest Oswald Lasrado said on Monday that he went around the premises and locked the entrance gate at around 10 p.m. on Saturday. The shrine of Our Lady of Loretto is at the gate, which is about 500 m from the church. The gate was opened at 5 a.m. on Sunday and the mass began at 8 a.m., when there was heavy rain in the locality. “I was not aware of any damage when the prayers began,” Father Lasrado said.
The damage to the shrine was noticed by devotees who were returning home after the Sunday mass. Local residents and devotees held a daylong protest and demanded the arrest of the miscreants. A complaint was filed by Father Lasrado with the Bantwal Town police.
“More than the physical damage, the incident has hurt our feelings. It looks like a planned attack by outsiders,” said Father Lasrado. The church, which was established 70 years ago, built the shrine around 10 years ago. This church is located off the Bantwal–Moodbidri State highway.
Richard Menezes, a member of the Amtady Gram Panchayat where the church is located, said he was among those who attended the Sunday prayer.
“As it was raining heavily, no one noticed the shrine had been damaged. A group of youngsters, who went out after the prayers, was the first to notice it.” A portion of the glass façade has been damaged and the statue has developed a crack. Two soda bottles, one of them broken, were found inside the shrine, he said.
Hubert Lobo, vice-president of the church council, said the parish members have a good relationship with people in the area. The church runs a Kannada and an English-medium school on its premises. In fact, this church was not disturbed when others in the area were vandalised in 2008, he said. “We do not blame anybody; but we want justice. Those who have attacked it with bad intentions should be put behind bars,” he added.
Minister for Forests, Environment and Ecology and Bantwal MLA B. Ramanath Rai and Mangalore city South MLA J.R. Lobo met the protesters on Sunday and assured them of finding the perpetrators at the earliest. Inspector-General of Police (Western Range) C.H. Prathap Reddy and Superintendent of Police, Dakshina Kannada, Shantanu Sinha also visited the spot. “Investigations are on to find the culprits,” Mr. Sinha said.