Vandals Target Church on Palm Sunday

Swastika, profane messages scrawled on church walls

By Kimberly Tere and Caitlin Matalone
|  Monday, Mar 29, 2010  |  Updated 6:06 AM PDT
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Vandals Target Church on Palm Sunday

NBC Bay Area

Vandals spray painted swastikas and profanity on the church walls.

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Parishioners at a church in the East Bay arrived at Palm Sunday services to find offensive graffiti spray-painted on the walls.

Members of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension in Oakland say it was a frustrating way to begin a week that is supposed to be filled with reflection and prayer.

Hours before Sunday morning Mass, vandals scrawled hateful words, profane messages and a Swastika on the exterior walls of the Lincoln Avenue church -- mere steps away from where thousands will come to worship this week.

"There are people who have been going here for 60 years and there are little children. You don't want anyone to read that, especially on Palm Sunday," Carol Kassouf, Vice President of the Church Council, said Sunday.

Members of the congregation expressed shock and sadness at the racially charged tagging -- particularly on what is considered one of the church's holiest days.

"It was just very, very disgusting," Father Tom Zaferes told NBC Bay Area. "I'd want to know why someone would be so hurt, so broken to do something like this."

Sources tell NBC Bay Area that Oakland Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

Officers confiscated a skateboard found on the property as evidence. Parishioners also discovered a can of spray paint on a ledge that was then handed over to police.

The church is putting extra security measures in place to try and prevent this from happening again. Crews are expected to arrive at the church first thing Monday morning to clean up the graffiti.

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