After Vandalism Experience at South African Parish, Catholic Priest Urges Vigilance

Fr. Patrick Dladla at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Parish of Johannesburg Archdiocese which was vandalized on 11 June 2022. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Parish Priest of St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Parish of Johannesburg Archdiocese, which was vandalized last week, has called on his colleagues to be vigilant and to “beef-up security “ in their respective Parishes. 

In an interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Patrick Dladla recalled the June 11 incident when an intruder gained access to the Catholic Parish that is located in Eldorado Park and destroyed various religious items.

“I think we Priests must be more vigilant, always, especially during big events, like weddings and funerals when you get people that are not necessarily Catholic coming to the church,” Fr. Dladla said during the Tuesday, June 14 interview.

“We need to beef-up security in our parishes because some people come with bad intentions,” Fr. Dladla said, and added in reference to the June 11 attack, “We were very fortunate that no one was injured when the intruder was destroying the statues and stations of the cross; it was a wakeup call for us to be more vigilant as to who we allow in our Parishes.”

The member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) asked Parish Priests to explore the possibility of engaging private security guards. 


Those whose Parishes lack the financial capacity to contract private security guards could seek help from community policing forums, he said, adding, “According to my knowledge and to reports that we get during Priest meetings, many parishes are vigilant, or many parishes have beefed up their security. But in our case and other poor parishes it’s a question of affordability.”

“We don't have those finances, but we do have men in our churches; we have church members who patrol the communities; we can ask them to include the churches,” Fr. Dladla told ACI Africa June 14.

He went on to recount the June 11 vandalism incident saying, “Weekends are always busy days for Priests. On Saturday we had two funerals and infant Baptism catechism classes. Members of St. Vincent de Paul were also there distributing food parcels to the poor, when an unknown man carrying a bible asked to go inside the church to pray.”

“Because he looked suspicious, he was asked to wait outside the gate, but as people came back from the cemetery, he managed to come back into the church and started vandalizing the church,” said Fr. Dladla.

The OMI Priest who was on a pilgrimage to Ngome Marian Shrine that weekend said that those who witnessed the vandalism found it difficult to stop the man who kept on telling them that the holy spirit had ordered him to destroy the images, statues, and stations of the cross.

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“I was told that everything happened very fast; (and) that he was a well-built man. The young men who saw him had to ask for backup to restrain him from reaching the tabernacle. He was eventually arrested and is in police custody,” the Parish Priest of St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church narrated.

He described the vandalism incident as “an act of iconoclasm”, saying the perpetrator “destroyed all the images in the church.”

Fr. Dladla continued, “We have heard about such attacks in parts of Europe and in some African countries, but I think it’s a first in South Africa.”

“When people break into churches they go for the tabernacle because they think it’s a safe with money; they don’t destroy the Holy Images, the statues,” he said.

Fr. Dladla asked Catholics to pray for Priests, saying, “We've got the feast of Corpus Christi on Sunday, but before that, on Thursday is a day for the Priest, Jesus Christ the High Priest. I would wish that all the parishioners in South Africa and all over the world, on that day, pray for the safety of the Priest in our land.”


The prayer intention for Catholic Priests would be “for Christ to continue to protect us in these difficult circumstances, and that we may be more vigilant,” Fr. Dladla told ACI Africa June 14.

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.