Arabic Church Vandalized

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POTTSVILLE -- The flags in front of St. Ann's Cathedral in Pottsville are new. The old American and Palestinian flags were damaged by vandals sometime Sunday night, according to church leaders, who said the flags were torn to the ground.

"Actually I was called in and when I arrived here to the cathedral, the flags were all outside and they were torn out from where they were mounted to the building, as like a hate crime," said Bishop Ramzi Musallam.

St. Ann's is an Arabic Catholic church. It has been located in Pottsville for about a year. Bishop Musallam said the flags were torn down last year too.

Back in April, he said the other Arabic Catholic church, Our Lady of Fatima in Mount Carmel, was vandalized as well. A sign out front was smashed with something heavy, and then broken off its base.

Helene Tomedi is a parishioner at Our Lady of Fatima and a founding member of the church.

"It saddens me. It's sad to say I wasn't surprised. We've had a lot of negativity about the Arabic Catholic Church coming to Mount Carmel. That's my hometown and I thought maybe we were farther evolved than this spiritually. It's just very sad," said Tomedi.

Bishop Musallam said he was used to religious persecution growing up in the Middle East. He thought things in the United States would be better.

He prays this is not a hate crime and the vandalism stops.

"We find it to be a little hard, especially for me, the bishop, because where I come from, the Holy Land, where I have faced, growing up in Jerusalem where I didn't have the freedom to practice our faith," said Bishop Musallam.

Bishop Musallam said the police have been notified of the vandalism.

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