Vandalism limits public access at St. John's Cathedral

Crooks are forcing local churches to change the way they operate. The latest victims are parishioners at St. John's Cathedral in downtown Fresno.
October 29, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Crooks are forcing local churches to change the way they operate. The latest victims are parishioners at St. John's Cathedral in downtown Fresno.

The closure is brand new this week after a man kicked down a 110-year-old door inside the cathedral. Valley Catholics are outraged by the crime, especially since the man was caught on camera walking into a sacred room.

Security cameras caught a man repeatedly kicking at the door to the sacristy inside St. John's Cathedral on October 23. In the video, the man pauses after a few attempts then finally breaks through the door destroying a piece of cathedral history.

"It'll never be the same," said Denise McKenzie, the risk manager for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno. "And when you're violated in that way, it's heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking for all of us."

The damage to the 110-year-old door is on the inside of the sacristy where our camera wasn't allowed. Neither was the man in the video but you can clearly see him ignoring the ropes that close off the altar to the public. Several times during his hour and half stay the camera catches a good look at his face.

"This is happened more and more, there's just no respect for anything anymore," McKenzie said. "Our churches are suffering all up and down the diocese."

Now, instead of open doors, a sign says the church is closed because of disrespect to the sanctuary. Churches all over the valley are feeling a similar impact caused by vandalism. At St. James Anglican Cathedral in central Fresno people have to ask to be let in to pray for security reasons.

Thousands of dollars have been spent on repairs, like when crooks tried to steal this giant church bell.

"Churches are like anybody else," said Father Carlos Raines. "We've had our air conditions stolen, businesses around have had theirs stolen. We're all suffering at a time when a lot of people are suffering."

"Not only is it defacing things that are very close to our hearts," McKenzie said. "It's something that's a burden financially for the parishes and also for the diocese."

St. John's will still keep its regular service hours. The church will open 30 minutes before mass and close 30 minutes after. It will be open during special occasions.


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