A Roman Catholic priest in the Czech Republic recently apologized to his small village after he destroyed a Halloween pumpkin display made by children because he thought it was “satanic.” Father Jaromir Smejkal, the parish priest at the Church of St. John the Baptist in Kurdejov, issued an open letter to the mayor, which was posted on the village’s Facebook page.

The priest wrote in the letter, which was first reported by Breclavsky Denik, a local newspaper, “Leaving the rectory on Sunday evening, I saw numerous symbols of the satanic feast of ‘Halloween’ placed in front of our sacred grounds.” He continued, “I acted according to my faith and duty to be a father and protector of the children entrusted to me and removed these symbols.”

The priest also blasted the modern Halloween celebration as part of the “heathen, contemporary world” in opposition to the traditional Christian holiday of All Souls’ Day, which also falls on Oct. 31. According to the local outlet, children in the village of 500 people were reduced to tears after the priest smashed their pumpkins, and Smejkal stomped them for a second night in a row when they made replacements.

He noted in his apology that he had no intention of harming the children and wouldn’t have destroyed their pumpkins if he’d known they had made them. The priest said, adding that he came to realize that the alleged “symbols of evil spirits” weren’t intended to “express contempt for what is holy to us Catholics,” “But try to remember that my duty as a figure of authority and a priest is to protect children and families from hidden evil.”

The villagers of Kurdejov were reportedly “disgusted” by the priest’s destruction of the pumpkins, which were part of an event organized by local mothers. Pavel Kafka, Smejkal’s superior in the Diocese of Bmo, also denounced his actions as inadequate in a statement posted on the village’s Facebook page. The Czech Republic has become one of the least religious countries in the world since the first half of the 20th century, with just 21 percent of Czechs now identifying as Christian, according to The Telegraph.

Many Czechs still enjoy celebrating traditional religious holidays like All Souls’ Day. Polling shows that 73 percent of Americans plan to celebrate Halloween this year, and a Lifeway Research survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors last year found that only 13 percent say they urge their congregations to avoid celebrating Halloween, a marked increase from eight percent in a similar 2016 survey.

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