Early Saturday morning, El Paso Fire was dispatched to the St. Jude Catholic Church located at 4006 Hidden Way in El Paso’s Upper Valley. Upon arrival, firefighters encountered heavy smoke coming from the main sanctuary of the church.
Further investigation showed the church also had a broken window on the Southwest corner of the chapel, near the altar.
The EPFD Battalion Chief on the scene confirmed to KTSM that a Fire Investigator has been called to the scene, but cautioned that all church fires are treated as possible criminal investigations.
Just before noon, the El Paso Catholic Diocese confirmed the incident is treated as an act of vandalism with an incendiary device. The Diocese is reminding parishioners that their safety is of the utmost importance and they are working with multiple law enforcement agencies.
We can confirm an act of vandalism with an incendiary device occurred in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 15th at San Judas Tadeo Catholic Church on the west side of El Paso. The inside of the church did sustain minor smoke damage. Due to that damage, Mass will be moved to the parish hall, but all Mass times will remain as previously scheduled.
Regular San Judas Tadeo parishioners told KTSM they were saddened by the news.
“I got the news this morning and it devastated me like I got chills, I got really heartbroken really sad it’s a sad situation,” Liz Tovar said.
Tovar said she travels from Mesilla, N.M. just to attend mass at San Judas Tadeo. She said the incident is alarming as far as security for parishioners.
“Especially an attack on a church where there’s always families around, children, elders,” Tovar said.
Longtime parishioner Victor Vazquez said his family has attended San Judas Tadeo for many years. He said parishioners need to take action.
“My being here right now is because I feel we have to stand up and talk about this, it’s very important to stand up and address the issue,” Vazquez said.
Vazquez said the next step for the San Judas Tadeo community is healing.
“We’re going to come out of this, I know this congregation will come together and put this all back together,” Vazquez said.
As KTSM has previously reported, there have been two prior church fires, both at Catholic Churches, in the last few months that are being investigated as arson. The first was at St. Matthew’s Church on May 7. The second incident happened just days later at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on May 13 when an apparent Molotov cocktail was thrown against one of the cathedral’s windows, bounced off and detonated on the sidewalk.
The FBI is investigating the two incidents in May. Anyone with information about the incident this morning or the two incidents last month are urged to contact the El Paso Police Department at (915) 566-8477 or the FBI Tip Line at (915) 832-5000.