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Forgiveness preached at vandalized National Cathedral

Chapels shuttered after being splashed with green paint

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Healing and forgiveness were the prevailing attitudes at the Washington National Cathedral a week after green paint was found splattered within two of its chapels and on three other well-known sites around the District.

Signs outside the Bethlehem Chapel and the Children's Chapel on Sunday indicated both were closed for restoration, but services went on as normal and visitors continued to meander around the historic and cavernous church.

D.C. police last week charged Jia M. Tian, 58, with defacing of property after police found her in the cathedral with a soda can of green paint and paint-flecked clothing. Minutes earlier, green paint had been found thrown across the woodwork of the Children's Chapel and an organ in the Bethlehem Chapel, which was the site of former President Woodrow Wilson's tomb for more than 30 years.

Court documents said Ms. Tian was found wearing a multicolored sock on one arm, while a similar sock was found in a trash receptacle near a paint can.

"I think the first thing you have to do is try to figure out why she did what she did," said Brett Bell, 46, of Atlanta as he paused from taking photographs outside the cathedral. "I think in understanding there's also practicing forgiveness. Especially with the cathedral that should be No. 1."

Police are still investigating connections between Ms. Tian and similar green paint vandalism near the Smithsonian Castle, the Martin Luther statue at Thomas Circle in Northwest and the Lincoln Memorial.

National Park Service officials Thursday said conservationists were on the last treatment to remove the remnants of green paint from the Lincoln statue.

Carly Ivanowski, 16, of Worcester, Mass., was in town the past week for a student conference and was visiting the cathedral with her mother.

"We went on a trip to the Lincoln Memorial and saw the scaffolding," she said, adding that regardless of the motive behind the vandalism "you still have to be responsible for your actions."

Inside the cathedral, visitors peered through the closed gates of the Children's Chapel, where green paint was splattered on the wood and gold leaf behind the altar. Most of the paint has already been removed. Downstairs and past the bustling church gift shop, the heavy wooden doors to the Bethlehem Chapel remained closed. Cathedral officials said paint was thrown on the organ console and woodwork.

Ms. Tian on Friday appeared in D.C. court, where a judge ordered her to remain in a halfway house until her next court date at the end of the month. Ms. Tian has a Chinese passport and was traveling on an expired visa when she was arrested.

One police officer testified that he was told by cathedral staff that repairs and cleaning could total $18,000.

The Rev. Kim Baker, who delivered Sunday's sermon, spoke about guarding against greed and showing mercy but made no mention of the incident.

As she waited for her friends to arrive for a tour, Gaithersburg resident Lisa Read, 45, said any repercussions for Ms. Tian "depends on her intent." The government contractor said she'd been following the string of green paint reports.

"It's D.C., it's par for the course," she said. "There's always something happening, but you can't let it get to you."

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