A crucifixion display at a church in the Brooklyn diocese was vandalized last week in what is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

“This was truly an act of hatred and today is the saddest day of my twenty years here at this parish,” Monsignor David Cassato, pastor of St. Athanasius parish in Brooklyn, New York, said in a May 14 diocesan press release. The vandalism occurred at St. Athanasius, which is located in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. 

According to the diocese, a crucifix installed outside the church in 2010 was toppled over and lay face-down on the ground. Msgr. Cassato discovered the vandalism on the morning of May 14; the display had been installed in memory of his mother. 

An American flag outside the parish rectory was also burned, according to the parish.

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

The parish plans to have the crucifix display repaired and reinstalled.

St. Athanasius parish sent a public message to the perpetrator on their Facebook page: “We forgive you and we are praying for you!” The parish held a prayer vigil on May 15 in response to the incident, claiming that hundreds attended. The diocese has asked anyone with information on the incident to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477).

Other acts of vandalism have taken place at churches around the country in recent months.

In early May, a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Waltham, Massachusetts was vandalized, with its head and hand cut off. 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.

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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. In early February three statues of angels at St. Pius X Church in El Paso, Texas, were toppled over and broken.

In early January, a statue of St. Therese of Lisieux was defaced with an upside-down cross, the word “satan,” and a pentagram, at St. Theresa of the Child Jesus parish in Abbeville, Louisiana.

Catholic Churches and statues throughout the United States were targeted for arson or vandalism throughout 2020 as well.