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Brooklyn diocese requests greater police presence outside churches, after acts of vandalism

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Washington D.C., May 18, 2021 / 16:00 pm America/Denver (CNA).

The Diocese of Brooklyn is requesting increased police presence after two incidents of vandalism in three days at church properties.

Over the weekend, a statue depicting the Blessed Mother holding the infant Jesus was discovered vandalized outside the diocesan administrative offices, with Jesus decapitated. On Friday, a crucifix display outside St. Athanasius parish in Brooklyn was found toppled over, with an American flag outside the rectory burned.

“We are definitely concerned that there is a pattern of hate crimes against Catholics. There was a hate crime at a Bensonhurst parish on Friday morning and now, just a few days later, this act of hatred has been discovered at the Diocesan offices,” said Msgr. Anthony Hernandez, the moderator of the curia for the diocese, in a statement on Monday.

Hernandez said that churches will be notified to be on the alert for vandalism, and that the diocese is requesting that the NYPD patrol areas around churches.

“Hatred and intolerance of the Catholic faith, and for that matter any faith, has no place here,” he said.

The two acts of vandalism are being investigated as potential hate crimes. The diocesan administrative offices are located in the Windsor Terrace section of Brooklyn, while St. Athanasius parish is located in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn.

The crucifix display at St. Athanasius was installed in 2010 in commemoration of the mother of the current pastor, Monsignor David Cassato. The monsignor discovered the vandalism on Friday morning while walking. He said the damage done to the crucifix was “truly an act of hatred.”

“Today is the saddest day of my twenty years here at this parish,” said Msgr. David Cassato on Friday.

“I went over and spoke to the students in the school about what happened, telling them that hate never wins. We are, and must be, a community that continues to share the message of Easter, that which is of love, hope, and forgiveness,” he said.

A facilities manager discovered the decapitated statue outside the diocesan offices, and reported the incident to police. The diocese says it is working to repair the statue in its current form, while the parish says it intends to repair and reinstall the crucifix in the same location.

A prayer vigil was held Friday night outside St. Athanasius; the parish claimed that hundreds attended, praying for the perpetrator of the vandalism.

St. Dominic, St. Athanasius’ sister parish, was also targeted for minor vandalism in recent weeks, according to WABC. According to local media, a poster was stolen from the church and was found slashed last week.

Parishes in other states have been targeted for vandalism in recent weeks,

Earlier in the month, the head and a hand were cut off a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Waltham, Massachusetts. On the weekend of May 8, fingers on a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were broken off, at St. Thomas More church in Narragansett Rhode Island.

In April, the face of a statue of Christ at Saint Mary’s Cathedral in the Fargo diocese was painted black. On April 21, a man used a sledgehammer to damage a mural of Our Lady Guadalupe at St. Elisabeth Catholic Church in Van Nuys, California.

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