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Suspect Sought After Virgin Mary Shrine In Passaic Is Vandalized

(credit: Steve Sandberg/1010 WINS)

(credit: Steve Sandberg/1010 WINS)

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PASSAIC, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Police in New Jersey are searching for the vandal who desecrated a holy shrine in Passaic.

Damage was done to a glass encasement that protected a tree stump that some believers say has a resemblance to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Residents awoke Monday to the damage.

1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports


“It’s really bad that people don’t respect other people’s beliefs,” Elizabeth De La Luz told CBS 2′s John Slattery. “And a lot of people believe in the Virgin Mary and some other people might not, but that doesn’t give them the right to destroy what people love.”

“Basically everything that they could take a bat or a hammer to they destroyed completely,” resident Rey Carrera told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg.

Flower pots and a box of lit candles around the shrine, which sits next to a Route 21 exit ramp, were also overturned.

A Mother’s Day ceremony was held at the site Sunday night, so officials believe the damage was done afterward. The stump did not appear to be damaged.

Police said surveillance video shows the vandal making off with a print of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which was framed at the shrine. Authorities said they will try to enhance the surveillance video they obtained, trying to determine identity of the suspect.

mary shrine vandal Suspect Sought After Virgin Mary Shrine In Passaic Is Vandalized

Police say this surveillance video shows the vandal running away from the scene. (credit: Handout)

The devotion at the shrine began a few years ago when there were just weeds along a highway embankment, and a peculiar tree stump was discovered in the weeds. Volunteers got city permission to pave the area and erect a shelter.