Leaders of the Catholic church are worried they are in the midst of a hate crime spree after two acts of vandalism in just three days.
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. It was found adjacent to the school at the corner of 61st Street and Bay Parkway, toppled and lying face down.
The crucifix was installed at the parish in 2010 in memory of Monsignor Cassato’s mother. The parish plans to repair and reinstall it in the same location.
“This was truly an act of hatred and today is the saddest day of my 20 years here at this parish,” said Cassato. “I went over and spoke to the students in the school about what happened, telling them that hate never wins.”
Over the weekend, a statue depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary holding Jesus was vandalized on the grounds of the Diocesan administrative offices at 310 Prospect Park West in Windsor Terrace. Jesus was decapitated.
The destruction was discovered by a facilities manager. The diocese is already working towards repairing the statue to its original form.
“We are definitely concerned that there is a pattern of hate crimes against Catholics,” said Monsignor Anthony Hernandez of the Diocese of Brooklyn. “The Diocese will be notifying our churches to be on alert, and we are asking the NYPD to increase patrols in and around the area of our churches.”
The NYPD is investigating both incidents as hate crimes. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477).