Arson suspected in Bridgeport church fire

February 7, 2009 9:11:47 AM PST
The bomb and arson squad is investigating after a fire at a South Side church.The fire happened just before 3 a.m. Friday at All Saints-St. Anthony's on West 28th Place. When firefighters arrived they found a derogatory message spelled out in tape stuck to the front doors.

The church's pastor says it came as a complete shock. The message was done in red tape. Just around the corner is where arson investigators believe the fire was set.

"It appears it was set on the outside of an electrical box, so that's what's we're going, as well as just the other instances happen here with graffiti written on the front of the church," said Don Soranno, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms. "And also across the street there was a light pole that somebody tried to set on fire as well."

The fire damaged the north side of the church and an entire stained glass window. The church is attended by about 1,000 families in the Bridgeport neighborhood. Several parishioners walking by expressed shock and sadness. One woman explained how much she loves this church.

"My family walks here. I married, I have lovely memories of this place," said Judith Duarte, parishioner.

While the pastor is grateful nobody was hurt in the fire and that the damage was limited, he is puzzled and angry that someone would do something like this.

"I just feel kind of this gut-wrenching feeling, because I said, well, 'This is a sacred space, people come here to pray and to worship, why would anybody want to destroy or disfigure, you know, a building?'" Fr. John Parker said.

The message on the doors referenced to rape, however, Parker said he does not know of any connection between his church and any priest abuse scandal.