CNA with Red Brick Daily Staff

Pingtung police have arrested a 38-year-old man who allegedly admitted to setting fire to a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary at the Wan Chin Basilica in Pingting’s Wanlun Township.

The suspect has a reported history of mental illness.

Reverend Anselm Hsu said the colored robe on the wooden statue of the Immaculate Blessed Virgin Mary was completely destroyed and some parts of the statue were singed by the fire.

The church will hire carpenters to repair the statue and will make a new robe for it, Reverend Hsu said.

Wan Chin Basilica was established in 1861, when Friar Fernando Sainz and followers established a presence in Pingtung’s Wanluan Township. Two years later they built the church which was remodeled in 1870 … and has remained unchanged since.

In 1984, Pope John Paul II bestowed the title of “Basilica” on the Wan Chin Church, making it the first church in Taiwan to be given that privileged title.

A “Basilica” is an honorary title given by Catholic authorities to a church with special historic, religious or artistic significance.

The suspect, a 38-year man surnamed Pan, admitted that he started the fire at Wan Chin Basilica with a lighter, police say, and they have also reviewed surveillance footage that apparently confirms the man’s guilt.

Missionaries from Spain, Holland and Portugal arrived in south Taiwan several centuries ago and today, the majority of aboriginal tribes across the region adhere to either the Catholic or Protestant Christian faith.

*Photo via CNA