Published Thursday, 10 July 2014
A man has been arrested after 14 Stations of the Cross, three statues as well as pews and stained glass windows were damaged inside Our Lady of the Angels Oratory on Greencastle Street.
The attack was carried out sometime between 11pm on Wednesday and just before 9am on Thursday.
Parish priest Fr Michael Murray, whose car was also attacked, said parishioners were devastated by the news.
"Some of them this morning, when I met them, I couldn't let them into the oratory but when I told them the damage that was done they were actually crying," he said.
"The wee oratory was very close to a lot of the parishioners here so they're taking it very badly.
"When I walked in there this morning, I was totally saddened and heartbroken. I stood in disbelief at what had happened to the oratory, I just couldn't take it in.
"Everything that stood or was standing was taken down and smashed."
He added: "I just can't understand how anybody with any of Christianity could do that amount of damage to any church, to me any church is always a sacred place."
The cleric believed the attack was sectarian, however, police ruled this out as a motive on Thursday evening.
Local councillor Sean Doran said that the chapel had been "completely wrecked" and that the altar had been ruined.
"The place is a complete mess," he said.
The Sinn Féin Newry and Mourne councillor said that local police told him bricks had been used to damage the priest's car.
"All sides of the community are bound to be disgusted by this, it's a total disgrace."
He said that there had also been a number of attacks on a nearby church, St Colman's Catholic Church at Massforth in recent times.
"But this is taking it to a completely different extreme. It should be condemned by everybody in the community."
SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has also condemned the vandalism.
"I join with the community in South Down in condemning this attack on this place of worship.
"No place of worship should be subject to vandalism and acts of disrespect. I know the community in Kilkeel will be horrified to learn of this attack, and would ask anyone with information to come forward to the police at the earliest possible opportunity."
Senior Orangeman Drew Nelson also condemned the attack.
The orders grand secretary said: "This criminal act is as shameful and sinful as an attack on an Orange hall. It is wrong and I utterly condemn the actions of those responsible.
"I would also call on anyone with any information in relation to the circumstances of the attack to contact police immediately."
PSNI Superintendent Simon Walls added: "Any attack on a place of worship must be condemned and we are now investigating to find those responsible.
"If you noticed any activity in this area or have any information which may be connected, please contact police in Kilkeel on the 101 non-emergency number."
The independent Crimestoppers charity can also be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.
© UTV News