LYNN — Two icons at the St. George Greek Orthodox Church were vandalized with “anti-Christian” symbolism over the weekend, which a parish official believes was a personal attack against the church.
The vandalism was discovered Saturday afternoon, but church officials believe it happened on Friday night.
Two of the church’s icons, an image of the Virgin Mary and one depicting Saint George, the saint for whom the church is named, were defaced with “anti-Christian” and “anti-religious” graffiti, with references to the devil and to anarchy, according to Arthur Argeros, president of the parish council.
There was more graffiti on the face of the South Common Street building. Spray-painted symbols included an upside down cross, the number 666, and an A with a circle, which represents anarchy, Argeros said.
“It was basically a hate crime,” said Argeros. “(It was) hurtful. It was an attack against the church and Christianity. It was targeted because they put it on the two icons.”
Lynn Police is investigating the incident, which Lt. Rick Donnelly said was reported to the department on Sunday. He said there were at least three other incidents of similar vandalism that occurred in the same general area over the weekend. The same paint was used to depict the same markings, Donnelly said.
“It appears to be related (and) it could be the same person,” Donnelly said.
St. George has surveillance cameras, Argeros said, but they were turned off because of an ongoing construction project.
The vandalism at the church was condemned by His Metropolitan Methodios, the spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, which includes all of Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and four towns in Connecticut.
“The clergy and laity that comprise the Metropolis of Boston join me in expressing our sadness over the criminal vandalism perpetrated against the St. George Parish in Lynn,” said Metropolitan Methodios in a statement. “The desecration of the icons at the entrance of this historic church was a disgraceful act of disturbed individuals. We pray that they seek and receive the spiritual, psychological and emotional help they need to heal their troubled souls.”
The Greek Orthodox community in Lynn was incorporated on April 5, 1905. A pioneer group of Greek people established the church for the purpose of perpetrating their religious and cultural heritage, which has since grown into one of the largest religious congregations, not only in the city of Lynn, but also in the Greek Archdiocese of America, according to a history of St. George on its website.
The vandalism at the church, which occurred a week after its popular annual “St. George Lynn Grecian Festival,” was also denounced by several city officials. The incident follows several other recent instances of hateful graffiti and vandalism in the city, which included anti-Semitic symbolism on downtown murals and anti-Semitic and racist imagery inside a controversial proposed marijuana shop on the Lynn/Saugus line.
“We’re all appalled by it,” said City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre. “To happen at a church brings it to the next level. It’s saddening. It’s troubling. As elected officials, we’re asking for it to stop. We’re asking for the culprits to be prosecuted.”
Hateful vandalism is not welcome and will not be tolerated in a diverse city like Lynn, added LaPierre.
Councilor-at-Large Brian Field said the uptick in similar acts of vandalism in the past few months is disturbing, but that it’s prompted a necessary discussion.
“To see something like this, it’s certainly targeted,” said Field. “It’s not a little kid playing around. It’s certainly filled with hate (and) discriminatory. It hurts a lot of people. We stand united. There’s no place for hate in Lynn.”