Des Plaines police investigate fire at Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe
DES PLAINES, Ill. - Suburban police are investigating a suspected arson after a fire caused significant damage at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe early Tuesday morning.
Costly damage was caused to statues, sacred art, and the plaza – totaling to an estimated $50,000 in losses, according to Andy Lepe, a representative with the shrine.
"For what reasons, we have no idea, but this is not an accident," said Rev. Esequiel Sanchez, shrine director.
Worshippers were visiting the shrine throughout the day Tuesday to see the damage for themselves, and were shocked and saddened by the news that it may have been caused intentionally.
"It’s mostly impressive because people leave mementos, people leave something, part of them is left here, so when they see something like this, it really hurts," said Sanchez.
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A place of worship and pilgrimage, the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe draws thousands of visitors each year, but on Tuesday, many were there to pray for peace after the apparent arson.
Around 2:31 a.m., the Des Plaines Police Department responded to a report of a fire at the shrine, located at 1170 North River Road. Officials said the first officers to arrive at the scene attempted to extinguish the fire, but were unsuccessful.
Firefighters arrived soon after and extinguished the blaze, then arson investigators were called to the scene.
Meantime, parish officials say surveillance video of the alleged crime is disturbing.
"They were able to rip down the fiberglass and begin to build a bonfire that’s back there, so it was very intentional," said Sanchez.
Suspected arson at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe | Provided
The fire primarily affected the outdoor Chapel of the Resurrected Christ situated on the west side of the Shrine's Tepeyac Hill, according to shrine officials.
Police say a person of interest has been identified and detained, but no charges have been filed at this time.
"We are also praying for the person who did that, too. Hopefully that person finds peace too," said Fr. Jose Sequeira with the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
As flowers were laid Tuesday, parishioners said they are thankful there was no damage to the icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
"We’re strong, we’re going to pull through this, and as a community, we will rebuild," said Carmen Alonso, visitor.
The fire comes just over two weeks before the 10th anniversary of the shrine's declaration on Saturday, June 10.
The event will still take place, and both Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago and Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, Archbishop of Mexico City are scheduled to attend.
Meanwhile, the fire remains under investigation.
Authorities are urging anyone with information related to the incident to contact the Des Plaines Police Department.