During Sunday Mass last week in the parish of St. Mark in Yopougon, a suburb of Abidjan, Bishop Jean Salomon Lézoutié described two new cases of vandalism and desecration in his diocese.
“The first took place on the eve of Christmas celebrations in the parish of St. John the Baptist in Sassako-Bégnini where perpetrators attacked the church of Our Lady of the Sea in the town of N’Djem,” said the bishop of Yopougon.
“The second targeted the Sisters of the Cross and Passion in the parish of St. Bernard of Adiopodoumé, some 10 kilometres from Abidjan. The monstrance, with the host inside, was taken.”
The two incidents happened between December 2018 and February 2019. “It is worrying that these two acts of profanation took place in such a short period of time,” said Bishop Lézoutié.
Before these two cases, on 29 January 2018, the statue of the Virgin in the parish of Saint Joseph the Carpenter which stood at the station was stolen and desecrated. On the same afternoon of the theft, the statue was found in a gutter near a gas station, wrapped in fabric. The perpetrator has not been identified.
The Diocese of Yopougon is organizing its pastoral year around the adoration of the Eucharist, which means the holy sacrament is brought out daily in the parishes so that the community can worship it.
“In many parishes, the tabernacles are wooden which unfortunately means that they can be carried away and are easily broken,” said Bishop Lézoutié.
“Tabernacles should not be moveable. We have recommended changes to the code of canon law so that only the priest and sacristan have access to the key. We have to take these measures to protect tabernacles from being vandalised,” he said.
Asking for forgiveness
To pray and ask for forgives for these acts of violence, from the beginning of the 2018-2019 pastoral year, the bishop has included a Fatima Angel prayer during the celebration of the Eucharist.
On 24 Feb., as on all Sundays in all the parishes across the diocese, after Communion the bishop, priests and congregation in the parish of St. Mark recited the prayer in which they offer “Thee the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifference by which He is offended.”