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Catholic church fires in Dominica and St Lucia

By Kaelanne Jordan
Twitter: @kaelanne1

Two fires which broke out at two Catholic churches in Dominica and St Lucia, a day apart, are now engaging the attention of fire officials and police. One is being investigated as arson.

Videos posted on social media show a lone male hurling an incendiary device at a statue outside the Vieux Fort Catholic Church at Pierrot, St Lucia.

St Lucia Times reported that the incident occurred Sunday (July 19) about noon while the church building was packed with worshippers, eyewitnesses say.

One of the recordings shows a man yelling “judgement” before hurling two homemade bombs at a statue outside the church.

“The statue bursts into flames as the man walks out of range of the camera. Another male, apparently a parishioner, walks into the camera shot inspecting the damage,” the local news report said.

It mentioned that in the background can be heard the singing of worshippers inside the building. Another video shows persons fleeing the church while a voice from inside is heard yelling “King Selassie I the first”.

Eyewitnesses, the local news source said, reported that the man who originally set fire to the statue outside entered the church but was held by male individuals inside and later handed over to the police.

He is reported to have had other incendiary devices in his possession.

The man who was arrested was then heard yelling, among other things: “Burn Jesus! Burn the Holy Ghost” as he was being led away.

According to St Lucia Times, the incident has evoked memories of the New Year’s Eve attack on Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Castries in 2000.

Two men, Kim John and Francis Phillip, doused parishioners with petrol and set them ablaze claiming that God ordered them to do it.

“An Irish nun and a priest died in the attack, while others were badly burned and to this day bear scars from the incident.”

John and Phillip pleaded guilty to manslaughter after the Privy Council overturned their death sentence for murder. They were subsequently sentenced to life in prison.

Meanwhile, Rev Fr Nigel Karam, Dean of Roseau Cathedral is thanking God for His mercies and the quick response of the fire officers after a fire broke out at the Cross Street entrance of the Roseau Cathedral on Monday (July 20).

“It was about midway up the building and concentrated around one window,” Fr Karam said in a statement.

Fortunately, no-one was injured, he said.

Roseau Cathedral is one of the largest in the English-speaking Caribbean and a major tourist attraction. The Roseau Cathedral Renovation Project began in 2013 to restore “fairly extensive” damages caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

In a Dominica News Online report, February 28, 2020, Bishop Gabriel Malzaire revealed that the renovation work, which was expected for completion December 2019, “has not moved at the rate as expected” and will need an additional EC$3 to 4 million dollars for its completion.

Fr Karam added that they await an official report from the Police and Fire Department and other officials as to the origin of the fire and the extent of the damage.

He thanked all those who have been calling and inquiring about the situation. “Your care and concern are welcomed and appreciated,” he said. —KJ