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Man defaces 'miracle' Virgin Mary icon in Poland

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 11th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A 58-year-old man has been detained by Polish authorities after he allegedly threw vials of black paint at the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. According to local police spokeswoman, Joanna Lazar a protective pane of glass over the painted protected it from any damage. The icon is highly revered and is believed to work miracles.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Guards at the monastery in the southern city of Czestochowa quickly overpowered the suspect and handed him over to police, she added.

The suspect has been questioned and was expected to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, Lazar said. His name has not yet been released.

Lazar added that he could be charged with offending religious sentiment, an offense punishable by up to two years in prison. "The faithful have been calling us crying to ask what happened," monastery spokesman Father Robert Jasiulewicz told journalists.

"We've reassured them that the painting is intact."

Church membership in Poland is 90 percent Catholic, and many hear believe the icon holds special powers.

Thousands of Poles make a spiritual journey every August to the monastery, a tradition that goes back to 1711 when the bubonic plague decimated Warsaw's population.

When the epidemic suddenly ended, a brotherhood of knights trekked from the capital to the monastery to offer thanks to the Virgin Mary.

The icon's international reputation was boosted by the late Polish pope John Paul II who was deeply devoted to the icon.

Many believe the painting dates back to the first century and was painted by Saint Luke on cedar from a tabletop once used by the Holy Family. It was damaged in the 1400s by Hussite raiders who inflicted two slash marks and was later repainted or retouched on the same sacred wood.

The image also was reportedly slashed during an invasion (thus two facial slash marks). In it, Mary points to the Child and wears a robe decorated in fleur-de-lis (with an iris or lily as design.

Desecration and vandalism against holy objects have always been a risk. Witness the 1972 attack on the Pieta with a sledge hammer by a mentally disturbed man.

A widespread damage of religious statues, particularly of Mary, or of Jesus or saints at churches, shrines, and cemeteries have been common across the United States.

Annual attacks on public Nativity scenes, such as kidnappings of the Infant have followed campaigns to push Christmas out of the public square.

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