Pipe bomb found behind Catholic church in Philadelphia

Police car Credit ArtOlympic  Shutterstock ArtOlympic / Shutterstock.

An 18-inch pipe bomb was found behind a Catholic church in Philadelphia and removed by the police department’s bomb squad.

According to a police report, a passerby found the pipe bomb behind St. Dominic Catholic Church in the Holmesburg neighborhood of the city at 1:39 p.m. on Sunday. The bomb squad removed the device and conducted an analysis of it. The report states that the bomb was a PVC pipe with capped ends and a black powder on it, but that the type of powder was still unknown. Part of Frankford Avenue was temporarily shut down while the bomb squad removed the device. 

The church, which was constructed in 1896, is one of the oldest in Philadelphia. In August 2019, the Philadelphia Historical Commission added it to its official Register of Historic Places. 

The area in which the pipe bomb was located was also near railroad tracks. 

Philadelphia Police did not respond to questions about whether they believe the church had been targeted or whether they have any suspects, but instead referred CNA to the original police report. Neither the Archdiocese of Philadelphia nor St. Dominic Catholic Church could be reached for comment by the time of publication.

Although the target of the pipe bomb is still unclear, there have been at least 248 incidents of arson, vandalism, or other types of destruction against Catholic churches since May 2020, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ tracker. Criminal acts include churches being set on fire, statues being defaced with paint or having the limbs or the head cut off, gravestones defaced with swastikas, and defacing church buildings and property with anti-Catholic language. 

Among recent incidents, less than a month ago a woman was arrested after defacing the “Christ in Death” statue at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo, North Dakota. The statue portrays Christ’s corpse lying on a burial shroud. On Jan. 10, a man shattered a glass window on the door of St. Mary Catholic Church in Escondido, California. This was the third time the Escondido church had been vandalized since Christmas of last year. On Jan. 16, two Catholic churches in Billings, Montana, were vandalized. In both incidents, some Church property was defaced and some of it was stolen. Two other non-Catholic churches were also vandalized in the same week in Billings.

In addition to attacks on Catholic churches, pro-life pregnancy centers have also been subject to vandalism. These attacks saw an uptick after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. There have been 57 attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers since May 2022, yet there have been very few arrests in relation to these crimes. 

On Jan. 11, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed a resolution condemning the attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers, pro-life organizations, and churches. The resolution passed 222-209 with only three Democratic lawmakers in the chamber supporting the measure: Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas; Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pennsylvania; and Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Washington. Three Republicans did not vote, but every other Republican voted in favor of the resolution. 

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