FARGO — A statue of Jesus Christ in front of St. Mary's Cathedral in downtown Fargo was vandalized over the weekend.

Someone covered the face of the white marble statue with black spray paint, and the motive is unclear.

An investigation into the vandalism that occurred early Saturday, April 17, is underway, said Jessica Schindeldecker, a Fargo police spokeswoman.

Paul Braun, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Fargo, said the statue came from a parish that closed in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and was installed on May 25, 2018.

In the Catholic faith, statues serve as visible reminders of the faithful, Braun said.

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"Our response is prayer for the individual or individuals involved," he said. "Our hope is that those responsible may someday experience their own encounter with the face of Christ."

Many online commenters expressed anger over the vandalism, with one person describing it as an "appalling desecration of a holy statue." Others noted that although they believe Jesus was not white, vandalism is still a crime.

For centuries, Jesus has been portrayed in Western culture as a bearded, fair-skinned man with long, wavy brown hair and blue eyes, according to History.com. Religious scholars say he was a Palestinian Jewish man living in Galilee, so his skin was possibly a darker hue, as said in Revelations: "His feet were like burnished bronze."

The most prevalent image of Jesus found in Western countries emerged in the fourth century, and was heavily influenced by Greek and Roman gods, according to History.com. Jesus is portrayed differently in many different cultures.

In 2018, vandals decapitated a statue of the Virgin Mary outside St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Fargo, prompting an outcry from parishioners and a prayer service.