Haverhill detective Lieutenant Robert P. Pistone and Sacred Hearts Church Pastor John Delaney (WHAV Staff Photo).
Haverhill Police are asking the public’s help in the investigation of theft and vandalism at a nativity scene outside Sacred Hearts Church, Bradford.
At a police news conference this morning, carried live by WHAV, clergy and city leaders called the vandalism “shocking.” They expressed outrage over the discovery early Christmas morning of a baby Jesus statue having been stolen, and a severed pig’s head put in its place.
“It’s vandalism, it’s theft, and certainly, if our investigation leads us to believe that the person that did this was motivated by prejudice toward religion, then it will be treated as a hate crime,” said Haverhill Police spokesperson, detective Lieutenant Robert P. Pistone.
Sacred Hearts Pastor John Delaney said Father Benjamin LeTran made the discovery just before Delaney conducted an early morning Christmas mass. The incident has shocked the congregation, he said.
“People slowly understand what happened, and they’re heartbroken, they’re horrified, they’re outraged by this act that really speaks to us on a most solemn day, of great sadness and hurt,” Delaney said.
Pistone also asked local farmers and butchers to report any suspicious activity.
“If anybody saw anything that might have been suspicious on the early morning hours of Dec. 25, Christmas day, approximately between 1:30 in the morning and 6:30 in the morning. Again, we’re looking for any assistance, please call the Haverhill Police, (978) 373-1212. If you’d like to leave an anonymous tip, there’s a prompt for that on the directory when you call the station,” he said.
Mayor James J. Fiorentini said the nativity vandalism does not represent the community.
“Our community is represented by the people of faith, who showed up at Sacred Hearts that day to go to mass, who showed up at all of the other places over the weekend. Friday night at the synagogue, Saturday afternoon and Sunday at the various churches. That’s what the community of Haverhill is represented by, not by whoever, horrible person or persons did this act,” Fiorentini said.
Meanwhile, in a “good neighbor” gesture, resident Brenda Burns of Haverhill, donated a baby Jesus statue and placed it in the manger. According to Delaney, Burns is not even Catholic.
To hear the entire press conference, click play below.