Nationalist and Unionist politicians in Derry have condemned the desecration of a church in the city.
Police have now issued an appeal over the vandalism at Christ Church on Infirmary Road.
Vandals who broke into the Church of Ireland church are believed to have used smashed bottles of Altar wine to damage the organ there.
Stained glass windows at Christ Church were also smashed during the incident, while a bible was flung into the sanctuary. A Communion decanter was also stolen.
The break-in was discovered by a member of the Church of Ireland parish team who called to the Infirmary Road church on Tuesday evening.
Police were alerted and scenes of crime officers carried out a detailed forensic search of the building.
The PSNI have said that sometime between mid-afternoon on Sunday, September 10 and 4.15pm on Tuesday, September 12, the church was entered and damage caused to the church organ, while a crystal decanter is also believed to have been stolen.
Inspector Jonathan Hunter has appealed to anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the area of the church or anyone who has information which could help with our enquiries, to contact police at Strand Road on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference 949 12/09/17. Alternatively, if someone would prefer to provide information without giving their details they can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers and speak to them anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Speaking ahead of visiting the church this afternoon, Mayor Maolíosa McHugh said he was deeply shocked and horrified on hearing about the attack and was keen to reach out to Bishop Good, Archdeacon Miller and the Church congregation to offer the support of the people of the City and District.
The Mayor described the incident as “a despicable act of wanton destruction”.
“I was absolutely disgusted to hear about this attack on a place of worship,” he said.
“It is disgraceful that anyone would want to vandalise and destroy a church in this way and my heart goes out to the local community who are directly affected by this.
“I was particularly annoyed to hear that the stained glass windows and a prized organ were among the items damaged in the attack.
“This is an attack on the whole community and there is no support whatsoever for this type of vandalism and I would encourage anyone who has any information to come forward so the culprits can be brought to book.”
SDLP Derry Councillor and Deputy Mayor John Boyle described the break in and vandalism at Christ Church in the city as “repugnant and sickening”.
Councillor Boyle said: “ I am saddened to hear of the break in and vandalism at the Christ Church in the city. This is repugnant behaviour and it is sickening to think that the church has been targeted in this way.
“Churches perform an important role in our society and an attack of this nature is a challenge to the entire community. It’s my understanding that the church organ was damaged in the attack. This has caused a lot of upset for church users of all denominations and has been particularly distressing to members of the congregation.
“My thoughts are with the clergy and congregation of this long established place of worship. I have no doubt that the entire community will rally round to provide support at this time.”
Sinn Fein MP Elisha McCallion meanwhile said: “This break-in and wanton vandalism at Christ Church in Derry was disgraceful and I condemn it utterly.
“All places of worship should be treated with respect and any attack on them is an act of sacrilege.
“Not only was the historic church organ vandalised but other sacred items were also destroyed.
“Those responsible for this mindless attack are not representative of the people of this city and have nothing to offer society.
“My thoughts are with Archdeacon Robert Miller and all the parishioners at Christchurch.
“I know that this city will rally round and support them in any way we can at this difficult time.
“I would also encourage anyone with information on this attack to bring it forward to the PSNI.”
Speaking at the scene earlier today, DUP Foyle MLA Gary Middleton:
“There’s serious damage to the organ, there was damage done to the interior of the property as well. This was a disgusting attack.
“It is really such a sad situation here at the minute at Christ Church. This was a deliberately disrespectful act. These people knew what they were doing when they went in and cut the wires on the organ. They knew what they were doing when they broke in.
“These people were very clear in their motivation. One of the most hurtful acts was the stealing of the decanter, which was donated to the Church in memory of a young girl that died.
“The Church are urging that if anybody has any information to come forward, but specifically about the decanter because that was used for the Holy Communion. That was something which is priceless and cannot be replaced for this congregation.”