TOLEDO, Ohio — An early Monday morning fire at Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral is under investigation after being deemed arson.
Local resident Jeffery Matthews says he didn't see anything at the time of the crime, but describes the vandalism as personal to him and the community.
"I mean it's not destroyed, you know, but even to have it even attacked, it's just wrong," he said.
According to the Toledo Fire & Rescue Department (TFRD), the call came in just before 2:30 a.m. when a neighbor reported the church on fire.
But when crews arrived, they didn't see any flames. Instead, firefighters found the words "Black Jesus" and "Jesus is Black" spray painted across the front stones and noticed these burn marks, evidence of a flash fire that extinguished itself before TFRD showed up.
"If Jesus is Black, this is still is front door. It doesn't need to be set on fire and it doesn't need to be burned down and it doesn't need to be spray painted."
No one was injured and the fire didn't get past the front door.
Bishop Daniel Thomas said while mass still went on as usual just hours later, the incident is devastating.
"Those are the first two sentiments, alarming and heartbreaking, that anyone would engage in such vandalism, especially against a cathedral," Thomas said.
Now the bishop is thanking the neighbor who reported the early morning fire and praying for whoever started it.
"I prayed intentionally from my heart for forgiveness for the individuals who would have committed such an act. And of course going forward we certainly cooperate fully with the police department and the ongoing active investigation."
The damage is estimated to cost roughly $5,100.
Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers at 419-255-1111.
UPDATE: Toledo police officer, suspect both killed after hours-long standoff