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A historic Catholic church in West Virginia burned to the ground this weekend, and police are now investigating the incident as arson.
St. Colman Catholic Church was already a smoldering ruin when firefighters from the Beaver Volunteer Fire Department arrived to the scene Sunday morning. The church was built in 1878 and was declared an official historical site in 1984.
Authorities have not released information about potential suspects.
Police encouraged anyone with information about the arson to contact Trooper D. Daniels at (304) 256-6700, the WV State Fire Marshal’s Arson Hotline at 1 (800) 233-3473 or Crime Stoppers of Raleigh County at 304-255-STOP or crimestopperswv.com.
The alleged arson comes as Catholic churches across the U.S. and in Canada have faced a spate of vandalism and arson attacks in recent years.
The church burnings rose amid protests against Canada’s now-defunct residential schools program. The program saw Catholic-run schools tasked with forcibly assimilating indigenous children from the late 1800’s to 1970.
The congregation stopped holding services at St. Colman after it was declared a historic site in 1984.