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Vandals destroy religious statues at Youngstown church

YOUNGSTOWN — An East Palestine man is jailed in connection with more than a dozen religious statues vandalized at the Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, in what Diocese of Youngstown Bishop David Bonnar described as a senseless act.

Police Friday afternoon arrested the 20-year-old in connection with a felony count of vandalism for the early morning incident.

After the damage was reported, two patrol officers recalled dealing Thursday morning with a suspicious man in two car break-ins on East Commerce Street, a short distance from the church, said Capt. Rod Foley, chief of detectives. That man was given two misdemeanor summons for taking items — including glasses, face masks, a hat and a phone charger — out of parked cars and was arraigned Friday, Foley said.

This man was identified by police as Caleb Vancampen of East Palestine. The officers were able to find Vancampen, who was questioned by detectives. Video surveillance also helped lead to the arrest on the felony vandalism charge.

When questioned, Vancampen admitted he damaged the statues, said Foley, who declined to disclose the reason the suspect gave for the vandalism.

“We’re initially charging him with one count, but that could change when we get a better value amount on the damage,” Foley said. “That may take a week.”

Vancampen is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Youngstown Municipal Court.

“We will be praying for the person or persons who did this,” Bonnar said. “Where sin abounds grace abounds all the more.”

While acknowledging he is saddened by the damage, Bonnar said: “When moments like this happen, our faith helps us become better, not bitter.”

The damage is extensive with some of the heads of statutes broken off — including St. Francis of Assisi and an angel — while others were destroyed. A statue of Pope John Paul II was broken into several pieces and all that’s left is part of a foot.

The police investigation determined 16 fiberglass statues and two granite statues along with a light pole globe were damaged. Some of the statues have been there for a few decades while others are about 10 years old.

The Rev. Msgr. Michael Cariglio, pastor of the church, reported the damage to police at 6:41 a.m.

“There’s some significant damage and it will need to be assessed with our insurance carrier,” Bonnar said. “Insurance will cover the damage.”

The statues will be replaced.

“They’re statues, but they’re representations of our tradition,” Bonnar said. “They hold a sacredness. It’s who we are and what we stand for.”

The vandalism shows that “evil has no borders,” he said. “But we know that good triumphs over evil. The faith of the people will triumph.”

First Ward Councilman Julius Oliver said he was “very disappointed to hear that this type of careless, criminal act was taken against an institute made up of good people who regularly play a role in helping the community. I give thanks to the Youngstown Police Department for their quick response.”

The church on Via Mount Carmel Avenue was built in 1913 and was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Bonnar was installed as bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown on Jan. 12.

He said it was unfortunate that his first visit to Mount Carmel was in response to the vandalism, much like his first time visiting St. Patrick Catholic Church in Hubbard was after a Jan. 18 fire that heavily damaged it.

St. Patrick sustained about $4 million in damage in the fire. The cause of the blaze was undetermined.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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