Loyalists have attempted to burn down St Mary’s Star of the Sea Church on the Shore Road on the outskirts of north Belfast.
The building has been targeted numerous times in recent years. The latest incident follows a spate of recent sectarian attacks on other Catholic churches. It is believed flammable liquid was poured on the door and set alight shortly before 1.30am last Sunday.
The PSNI admitted the attack, the seventh of its kind so far this summer, was indeed sectarian. A spokesman for Down and Connor diocese said the community was “appalled”.
“The cowardly and destructive attack on St Mary’s Star of the Sea Church has left the parish priest, parishioners and wider community deeply appalled and upset,” he said.
“This futile action is completely at variance with the very strong cross community relationships experienced by local clergy and parishioners and they have taken great consolation in receiving support from all following this attack on their place of worship.
“Such senseless actions only serve to escalate tensions at a time of the year when every effort must be made by all citizens to promote respect and peace.”
The church was attacked several times last year, with bomb scares disrupting Mass - including an Easter Vigil - and paint being daubed on the building.
Sinn Fein councillor Gerry O’Reilly described the arson attack as “despicable”.
Meanwhile, a shotgun cartridge has been found attached to the front door of an Alliance constituency office in Carrickfergus.
It is the latest in a succession of intimidatory attacks by loyalists on the party since it was blamed by them for reducing the flying of the British Union Jack above Belfast City Hall. In December 2012, just days after the Belfast City Council vote, the same premises were ransacked and set alight by a gang of loyalists.
Earlier this week, a Larne man became the first person to be convicted in relation to the 18-month campaign of violence against the Alliance party. Charles Mervyn Jamison received a suspended sentence for vandalising the party’s office in Larne, a sentence which was criticised as being too lenient by Alliance Deputy Leader Naomi Long.
“In our opinion a very strong message needs to be sent out that this is unacceptable and that this kind of behaviour has its consequences,” she said. “I don’t think the message is getting through and frankly a 12-month suspended sentence sent out the wrong message.”