Vandalism at a historic church already damaged in the earthquake has shocked a Christchurch suburb.
Four or five children were seen smashing their way into the Romanian Orthodox Church in Phillipstown on Sunday afternoon.
Holy objects were damaged, vestments stolen, bookshelves pulled down and windows broken.
The Phillips St church survived the quake with slight damage to brick gables, but Father Emanuel Crainic said the vandalism had caused far more damage.
"The problems we have had with the earthquake are nothing compared to what people have done to the church and the property," he said.
"I have not seen anything like it in all my life," he said.
"They messed up everything in the whole church.
"Everything on the walls is smashed.
"The holy objects have been taken out and vandalised.
"Nothing is standing," he said.
"Everything is smashed on the ground and it looks very bad."
He said he did not know why anyone would vandalise his church, which was built in 1885.
"We are shocked by this, and the community is shocked as well," he said.
"We don't know why someone would do something like this. I would like to ask them why they did it.
"We have been amazed by how well the church has done in the earthquake.
"Apparently he [architect Benjamin Mountfort] did a very good job on this church.
"We have been very lucky."
Neighbour Daniel Thompson said he called police after seeing four or five children climb into the church through a smashed window on Sunday afternoon.
"I heard glass breaking and then I saw some little rugrats going through holes in the windows, so I called the cops," he said.
"With all this destruction going on, this is the last thing we need."
Christchurch police yesterday dusted window frames for fingerprints.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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