"A sacred space has been defiled and we are right to be angry"

Police are on the hunt for louts who caused a fire at a cave in the religious shrine of Carfin Grotto overnight last Sunday (October 18)

Carfin Grotto

The incident took place in a spaced dedicated to memorials to the dead. Bereaved families have made donations to place them there.

And the blaze has drawn condemnation from France – after the parish priest of adjacent St Francis Xavier church, Father James Grant opted to write an open letter on social media slamming the move, while he visited another Marian shrine – Lourdes.

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Father Grant said: “It was with great sorrow that I learned, whilst in Lourdes, that our beloved grotto had incurred vandalism. Whilst some may remark, albeit with sadness, ‘they know not what they do’, I respectfully disagree.

" Unless they are suffering from some kind of mental illness, they knew exactly what they were doing. This was a premeditated malicious act. The candles we light in the grotto symbolise both our faith and our love for God. The candles lit at this special space in the grotto are symbolic also of our love for our dearly departed.

"A sacred space has been defiled and we are right to be angry. I sincerely hope that the perpetrators are caught, to teach them a lesson and as a deterrent to others. Nevertheless as followers of Jesus we must find it in our hearts to forgive those who carried out this monstrous deed.“I am immensely grateful to the many people who have so spontaneously 'rallied to the cause' and have so generously donated towards the cause' of repairing the damage.“God is good and so the selfless generosity of so many will have the final word in this sad scenario. Let us pray for the conversion of heart of those responsible that they might come to appreciate the evil nature of their actions.”

Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Catholic church said: “This senseless act of vandalism is especially reprehensible as it has damaged an area of the Grotto which commemorates the dead. It is hoped that Police Scotland will investigate and increase patrols in the area."

A police spokesman confirmed the matter was being investigated and that anyone with information is asked to contact 101.