The Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn recently requested the NYPD increase patrols near churches in Brooklyn and Queens. The response comes after a series of recent incidents on Church properties throughout the city.
“It is disheartening to see acts of religious intolerance against the Catholic Church, most recently at St. Athanasius and our Diocesan offices,” said diocese deputy press secretary John Quaglione.
The two incidents Quaglione referenced happened within a week of each other. In the early morning hours of May 14, a crucifix was toppled and damaged and an American Flag burned at St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church in Bensonhurst.
The damaged crucifix was discovered by Monsignor David Cassato around 8 a.m. on his walk from the rectory to the academy to greet the students. The crucifix was installed as a tribute to the monsignor’s late mother.
On May 17, a statue of Mary holding the baby Jesus was found vandalized near the diocese’s administrative office in Windsor Terrace. Jesus’s head was removed. Diocese officials are working towards repairing the statue to its original form.
The incidents come after a year in which New York’s places of worship have been either closed or seen their capacity greatly limited.
“Many people are now just getting comfortable returning to church after more than a year of hesitation and fear stemming from the coronavirus pandemic,” explained Quaglione. “We have now reopened our churches at 100 percent capacity and the last thing we want is our faithful to feel unsafe attending Mass.”
Despite the incidents, Quaglione is confident that the diocese can thrive and be of service as the pandemic slowly comes to a close.
“As we continue to see the light at the end of the tunnel of the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be people who are experiencing anger and frustration over the loss of a loved one, employment, or income,” said Quaglione. “Our message to them is to let the Church help you through the mental health services offered through Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens.”
The diocese is not the only religious community experiencing a surge in hate crimes. On May 13, worshipers at the Tayba Islamic Center in Sheepshead Bay were shocked to find anti-Palestine phrases scrawled on the side of the building.
On May 22, a group of Jewish worshipers were verbally assaulted outside of a Borough Park Temple. Both episodes occurred while tensions between Israel and Palestine remained extremely high.