Along with the local clergy, Fr Eugene O’Neill, Fr Dominic McGrattan, Fr Brendan McGee and the parish sister Sr Mary Carlin, and the parishioners of St Patrick’s Parish, Belfast, I am deeply shocked and appalled by the suspected arson attack upon St Patrick’s Church this afternoon.
This criminal action is a violation of the sanctity of the Church and an attack upon the local community that has caused significant damage to the property and left the local congregation distressed and deeply upset.
Places of worship hold deep significance for the entire community and for their congregations and they should not be targeted.
The police (PSNI) and Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service were called to the scene and are currently investigating the cause of the fire. I pay tribute to these emergency services who acted quickly to bring the fire under control and have prevented further damage to this most beloved place of worship in the heart of the city of Belfast.
I am reassured by the many messages of support that the local clergy have received from across the community. Their support bears testimony to the fact that the repercussions of this action are felt by all within the community.
I would appeal to anyone who may have witnessed suspicious behaviour in the vicinity of the Church this afternoon to contact and assist the PSNI at Tennant Street with their investigations (Tel. 101).