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Lector assaulted during Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia

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Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson J. Perez delivers the homily at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia April 6, 2020. He reported Aug. 23 that during the 11:00 a.m. Mass there, a lector was punched by someone in the congregation as she left the altar. (CNS photo/Sarah Webb, CatholicPhilly.com)

PHILADELPHIA — A lector at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia was punched in the face by an assailant after reading Scripture during an Aug. 23 Mass.

The assault was televised as the Mass was being livestreamed on the archdiocese’s Vimeo channel and on the Facebook page of Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson J. Perez.

The assailant was not immediately apprehended, and Archbishop Perez, in an Aug. 23 statement, called the assault “a senseless act of aggression.”

“Such behavior is unacceptable at all times, especially within the confines of a church building and during the celebration of the Holy Mass,” Archbishop Perez said. “I was saddened to learn of this incident and regret that it took place.”

He said the lector “received immediate attention and assistance from cathedral staff members” and did not require medical attention. He said she is “doing well based on the reports I have received.”

In the video footage of the attack, the victim, who had read the Old Testament passage, had just left the sanctuary with another lector and were just beginning to walk down the center aisle. The assailant, who was wearing a mask as is the norm for public gatherings, was standing in front of the front pew, and smacked the lector twice in the face as she passed. The attacker then walked across the center aisle and out of camera range.

Archbishop Perez said: “Violence has no place in our world and every life is a precious gift from God. Please join me in praying for everyone involved in today’s incident and for respect for our fellow brothers and sisters.”

He also said the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is “working in conjunction with police regarding the matter and will cooperate with them fully. Please be assured that there are safety and security plans in place for the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. We welcome all visitors and work to provide for their safety.”