A three-foot tall statue which has adorned the wall of a church for decades has been ripped from its holdings and smashed to pieces.
Visitors to St Paul’s Catholic church in Hazelgrove Road, Haywards Heath, made the shock discovery last week.
Parish priest Father Martin Jakubas was alerted to the destruction soon after it happened on Tuesday and immediately locked the church until police arrived.
The statue - of St Therese of Lisieux - had been secured to the church wall with a bolt and chain.
“It was firmly fixed so that it couldn’t easily fall off,” said Father Martin. “But it was ripped from the wall and smashed to pieces. It was quite nasty.”
Fragments of the smashed statue were left spread over a 10-foot area - along with a discarded can of Special Brew beer left under a pew.
Father Martin, who said the statue had been in the church since it was built in the 1930s, is now looking to replace it with another of St Therese - one of the most popular saints in the history of the church - and expects it will cost around £500 for a second-hand replacement.
Meanwhile, he is at a loss as to why the destruction took place.
“Perhaps it was done in a moment of blind fury,” he said. Whoever did it was, he said, “obviously in need of a great deal of help.”
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (1873 – 1897) was also known as Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.
She was a Carmelite nun and is popularly known as The Little Flower of Jesus or simply The Little Flower.
She is known among Catholics for the simplicity and practicality of her approach to the spiritual life.
Together with Saint Francis of Assisi, she is one of the most popular saints in the history of the church.
l In a separate incident last week, church statues at an address in Copsale, near Horsham, were attacked by a sledge hammer, causing damage estimated at over £20,000.
One of the damaged items is a calfstone from a church in East London. That damage is estimated at between £12,000-£15,000.
Sussex Police are asking anyone with information to contact them.