Brooklyn diocese releases video of man 'desecrating' altar during Mass

Screen Shot 2020 01 14 at 10118 PM Footage from the desecration of the altar at St. Anthony of Padua in the Diocese of Brooklyn, Sunday, Jan. 12. | Diocese of Brooklyn

The Diocese of Brooklyn has responded to an act of vandalism at a parish this past Sunday, and released a video showing a man "desecrating" the altar during Mass.

According to a statement released by the Brooklyn diocese on Tuesday, the incident occurred during the 9:30 a.m. Sunday Mass at St. Anthony of Padua parish in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Video footage from above the sanctuary shows a man approaching the altar while Father Jossy Vattothu is celebrating Mass. The man, carrying a jar of juice, pours the contents on the altar and tosses some towards Fr. Vattothu.

The diocese called the event a "desecration" of the altar and "a heinous act of religious intolerance."

The man then turns and walks down the main aisle before being obstructed by Mass attendees. He was subsequently arrested by the New York Police Department and, according to amNewYork, taken by police to Woodhull hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

Fr. Vattothu, a member of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate who is assigned to the diocese, said that in his ten years as a priest he had never witnessed such an incident, and initially thought the man wanted to tell him something as he approached the altar.

"It is a miracle that the bread and wine were not damaged, and I was able to continue the Mass, consecrating the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ," he stated. "I pray for this person and do not know what was going through his mind."

In response to Sunday's desecration, the chancellor of the diocese called attention to a rise in attacks on and desecrations of churches and synagogues.

"It's really egregious that somebody would do that at the most sacred part of the Catholic Mass, which is the consecration," said Monsignor Anthony Hernandez, chancellor of the Brooklyn diocese. 

"I think right now, people are scared given the current environment of anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic incidents. People are afraid to go to their house of worship," he said.

During the 2019 holiday season, there was a spate of attacks on churches and synagogues.

In late December, five people were stabbed during a Hannukah party at a rabbi's house in Monsey, New York. At West Freeway Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Texas, on Dec. 29, a gunman killed two congregants.

Earlier in the month, two shooters killed four people in a planned attack on a Jersey City kosher market. According to officials, the attackers had a pipe bomb in their van parked outside the market, and had planned the attack for months.

In light of Sunday's incident, Fr. Vattothu called on Catholics to sit closer to the altar at Mass, "so that we as a faith community can be more together and make the priest feel more comfortable."

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