Parishioner Bill Fitzgerald stands in front of a smashed cabinet, broken glass at his feet. In his hand a 113 year old book, a handful of its crumpled yellowed pages scattered on the floor, the tome contained the writings of St Thomas Aquinas.
On Tuesday morning Mr Fitzgerald found the heartbreaking scene at St Thomas Aquinas Parish in Charnwood. Vandals had broken into the church the night before and trashed the building.
Historic books were damaged, a heavy Tasmanian timber altar overturned, windows smashed and a Christmas tree and a nativity scene destroyed.
A brightly coloured statue of Mary with baby Jesus was found in pieces outside.
ACT Police attended the property on Wednesday and conducted forensic investigation which included testing for fingerprints.
Now the church is waiting for a visit from the insurance company before they can begin the cleanup.
For Mr Fitzgerald the books, dating back to 1908, were "part of history".
"They ripped the pages out," he said.
"It's going to take a few parishioners to clean up that's for sure," he said.
The writings were not the only cherished item damaged during the break-in.
Mr Fitzgerald said the altar, specially designed in Tasmania out of fine wood and very heavy, was not spared by the vandals.
"I'd be very surprised if only one man could overturn it," he said.
The parishioner hoped the church would reopen on Sunday, and was sure the congregation would pitch in to help.
This isn't the fist time the church has been plagued by vandals, Mr Fitzgerald said windows had been broken and books stolen on previous occasions. In fact, the situation had become so dire the church remained locked during the day, and was only opened for mass, events or by special request.
"It has been targeted on three occasions," he said.
"What would motivate anybody to do this?"
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