A historic Canberra church designed by renowned architect Romaldo Giurgola has been broken into and ransacked only weeks out from Christmas.
The St Thomas Aquinas parish in Charnwood was found vandalised just before 6pm on Tuesday by long-term parishioner Bill Fitzpatrick.
"The destruction is just something unbelievable," he said.
"Up to the altar; smash it and turn it on it's side. Smash the crucifix, which was a special presentation to our church many years ago. Smash the statue of our lady [Mary] holding the child Jesus. Tried to pull the TV units off the wall. Smashed candles.
"That anybody could go into any church and do what they've done ... God help them."
Mr Fitzpatrick said he had been asked to visit the parish by priest Father Tom Thornton who had heard about the damage.
Mr Fitzpatrick said the parish had a service at 10am that morning, and that he had securely locked the doors behind him.
The window above the door handle had been broken to pieces. A bookcase with old texts related to St Thomas Aquinas had been desecrated, leaving pages ripped apart.
ACT Policing confirmed they had received a report about the break in on Tuesday afternoon. They said officers attended the scene on Wednesday morning, with AFP forensic investigators gathering evidence and investigating the incident.
ACT police also confirmed they had received a report on September 29 this year that about $2640 worth of supermarket shopping vouchers had been stolen from the parish premises between September 24 and 29.
The investigation revealed $1460 of the vouchers had been spent, with the unused vouchers cancelled by the supermarket chain, police said. No offender has been identified.
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Mr Fitzpatrick said the close-knit church community would be broken-hearted when they found out what had happened.
"They will be several withered [wails] in the morning," he said.
"We love that place. Many of us go to the church there every day, so it's going to be catastrophic tomorrow."
Mr Fitzpatrick said he called ACT police when he first saw the destruction, but they told him they would visit the parish in the morning.
The church was designed in 1989 by architect Romaldo Giurgola at the same time as he worked on Parliament House. The church's design won the RAIA's Canberra Medallion in 1990.
An article in The Canberra Times from November 28, 1989, described the building as "the epitome of architecture."
"The pews and altar furniture have been made from Australian timber and have been combined with the plans of the design architects of Australia's Parliament House [in] Mitchell," the article said.
"[Romaldo] Giurgola believes that essentially, a church building is the epitome of architecture."
The piece said the building cost about $700,000 and much of the craft work in the church was done by people who also did work for Parliament House.
Dr Fitzgerald said he believed the church would continue to have mass, congregating in the parish centre.
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Anyone with information that could assist police is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or via the Crime Stoppers ACT website. Please quote reference 6981185 for the December incident, or 6918302 for the September theft. Information can be provided anonymously.
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