The man suspected of desecrating St. Joseph Church in Astoria, Queens, in the Diocese of Brooklyn a month ago was arrested Saturday, July 8 after returning to the parish and acting erratically. In another incident on Saturday, parishioners at Resurrection Church in Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, caught a man spray painting a statue of Mary and handed him over to police, diocese officials said.
In the Astoria incident, the man suspected of desecrating St. Joseph’s Parish on June 5 also made a commotion when he returned to the church on Saturday.
“The man entered the sanctuary acting erratically, disturbing the youth choir practice, and frightening the children,” diocese officials said. “Police officers from the 114th Precinct responded within minutes.”
The church was not damaged, and no one was injured, diocese officials said.
However, police arrested the 21-year-old man at about 2 p.m. Saturday on a charge of criminal mischief for the first incident at the church a month ago, said Officer Taylor Cannon, a police spokesperson, according to The Tablet, newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn.
The suspect was not arrested then, but was taken to a local hospital for observation.
According to reports a month ago, a priest discovered the same man on June 5 in the parish sacristy hitting himself in the head with a monstrance used to display the Blessed Sacrament. The man was bleeding on the monstrance and priestly vestments he donned while in the sacristy.
Officials believe he broke open the tabernacle, removed the consecrated Eucharist stored inside, and flung it. He also shattered framed portraits of Pope Francis and Bishop Robert Brennan.
Diocese officials said they believed he entered through a door that was unlocked for open access to Eucharistic adoration.
Two days later, Bishop Brennan reconsecrated the church by leading the parish in prayers. He blessed the altar, the prayer chapel, the walls, and the faithful with holy water.
In the Gerritsen Beach incident Saturday, a 37-year-old man was arrested at 11:30 a.m. for desecrating a new statue of Mary at Resurrection Church.
Two parishioners driving by saw the man spray painting the statue and grabbed him, diocese officials said. Officers from the 61st precinct responded.
The man was charged with criminal mischief as a hate crime, and then taken to a local hospital for observation, Officer Cannon said.
The white-marble statue is part of a new shrine to Mary at the parish in southeast Brooklyn. It replaced another statue destroyed by a vandal, said Father William With, the parish’s recently retired pastor.
Black paint covered the face of the new white-marble statue. Its shoulders and hands also had black paint on them. In addition, the word “fake” appears to be spray painted on the statue, plus lines down and across the statue.
“This vile disrespect for the statue of Mary on church grounds is disturbing,” Father With said.
He added that the community had rallied together, raising the funds to replace the previous vandalized statue.
“To see this act of hate on display will be most upsetting to parishioners who recently dedicated this new statue,” Father With said.