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WEST SIDE Pastor describes vandalism at parish as religious affront



Published: Wed, November 7, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The church windows had not seen significant damage for six decades, he said.

By JoANNE VIVIANO

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The Rev. Basil Duesenberry looks over six stained-glass windows in his church, the sun blocked by boards that cover gaping holes.

The holes were left by vandals who destroyed the red, green and ivory panels.

"You look at that, and it's enough to make you cry," said the pastor of the Holy Ghost Macedono-Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church on South Richview Avenue. "We don't expect it on the West Side."

Vandals have struck the church three times in the past three weeks. They hurled broken concrete and tile with such force that veins of lead that anchor the panels were twisted and bent. Glass covered the church interior.

"This wasn't somebody who just came and threw a rock and left," the pastor said. "They were so angry ... they just kept throwing and throwing."

City police are investigating.

Father Duesenberry said he is thankful that debris did not strike a stand of votive candles that could have caused a fire and destroyed the church.

Icon: Besides damaging six side windows, the vandals also cracked a $1,200 front window depicting the "Mother of God" icon holding a baby Jesus. The depiction was purchased by friends and family in memory of a parishioner. Now, a crack of sunlight streams through where a chip of red glass is missing. A green panel is taped to cover a wider gap. An ivory-colored panel is cracked.

"This is about desecration," the pastor said, referring to the attack on the Christian religious symbol. "This is the same as somebody going to a Jewish church and painting a swastika. This is a religious affront."

Link to attacks? Father Duesenberry said he wonders if the vandals are responding to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, similar to the rash of attacks against Muslims across the country. The church is topped with an onion dome, and he said it's possible a vandal might mistake it for a mosque.

"We hope that's not the case, but at the same time, you have to wonder, 'Why now?'" he said.

The pastor said the church has not seen vandalism like this since it was founded in 1956. The "Mother of God" window was installed in early September, in memory of Emily Evanoff who was 97 when she died, and the side windows have been part of the structure since the 1930s when it was built by members of the Christian Missionary Alliance.

In 60 years, only a handful of panels have needed replacing.

Insurance: Father Duesenberry fears the costs of repairing the windows will hurt the parish. While the windows are insured, he said, the church must pay a deductible of up to $250 for each of the three separate vandalism cases. The side window damage totaled about $3,000, he said. He expects the amount to fix broken panes in the icon window to be about $100.

He also fears the insurance company will refuse to insure the windows in the future.

"We're a very small parish," hesaid. "We can't afford it. We struggle."




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