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Charges not filed against 3 elders

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Deputies looking into whether three LDS missionaries defaced a Catholic shrine in Colorado announced Friday no charges will be filed, and they now consider the case closed.

Corp. Scott Powell with the Costilla County Sheriff's Office said the move comes after Roman Catholic Bishop Arthur Tafoya urged forgiveness for the missionaries on the eve of Good Friday.

The controversy began when photos of the missionaries, taken in 2006, showed up on the Internet, showing the young men at the Shrine of the Mexican Martyrs at the Chapel of All Saints, near San Luis. The men are shown holding the broken head of a statue, preaching from the Book of Mormon at an altar and pretending to sacrifice one another. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued an apology.

"The church expresses its profound regret and sincere apologies to the members of the Roman Catholic faith, to the members of the Sangre de Cristo Catholic Church and the townspeople of San Luis, for this senseless act," part of the LDS Church statement read. LDS Church officials also noted that those missionaries who had since returned will face disciplinary action from the church. The one missionary who was still serving in Colorado has been disciplined and his mission terminated.

Earlier this month one of the missionaries, identified as R. Thompson, issued a statement of apology to the parish and its members. "I realize that my companions and I have made a mockery of that which is most sacred to many of the residents of San Luis and the rest of the world. I should have known better because I have seen many of the same types of blasphemies made against my own church and I have been appalled," the statement said.

Some members of the parish said they felt victimized by what happened. The parish has nine churches and about 450 families across Costilla County.

The damaged statue seen in one of the photos depicts Manuel Morales, who was the 28-year-old president of Mexico's National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty when he was executed in 1926 for refusing to recognize laws he considered anti-religion. He was among more than two dozen Mexican saints canonized in 2000.

The broken head of the statue had gone unnoticed because it had been placed back on the statue.

"There is no longer an ongoing investigation, and the case is closed," Powell said Friday.

The Roman Catholic Church is considered the victim in this case, but because it does not want to pursue charges, the case will be dropped, Powell said.

Contributing: Associated Press

E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com