Hanford parishioners preach forgiveness after church vandalism

HANFORD, Calif. (KFSN) -- Days after being vandalized, the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church reopened its doors Friday night for mass.

The bishop came to Hanford to bless the congregation after their place of worship was trashed and burned.

Police arrested the man they say is responsible, 33-year-old Oscar Ruiz.

But the church's focus at mass was not on the crime but putting one of the church's teachings to the test.

The bishop asked the parishioners to extend that compassion to one unlikely person after dealing with one of the most horrendous crimes it has ever faced.

"I was in shock," churchgoer Tina Lopes said. "It was just devastating to hear that, you feel violated, you feel sad."

The pews inside the church were packed after the altar was cleaned and repaired for Friday's mass of reparation, but physical and emotional damage from the desecration remain.

"There is anger, there is disappointment, there are a whole array of feelings," Diocese of Fresno chancellor Teresa Dominguez explained.

Ruiz told police he vandalized the church because of a grudge against The Vatican.

Officers say he burned, trashed, and smashed the inside of several rooms which were a sacred place for thousands of people.

"We need to pray of him," Lopes said. "Whatever evil caused this to happen and not hold a grudge."

Bishop Armondo Ochoa blessed the church and its parishioners during this mass of forgiveness, calling for compassion during a time of hardship.

Parishioners hope this mass will not only bring them closer together but also a man they say is lost.

"Because he is our brother, he is one of our community," Dominguez said. "We don't know if he will be receptive when the time comes, but there will certainly be a gesture."
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