A 33-year-old man who desecrated the altar of a Brooklyn Catholic church during Sunday morning Mass was sent by cops to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, police reported Tuesday.
According to the NYPD, on Jan. 12, the man entered St. Anthony of Padua Church, located at 862 Manhattan Ave. in Greenpoint, during the 9:30 a.m. service. The Diocese of Brooklyn released video on Jan. 14 showing the desecration as it happened.
The video shows the man approaching the altar and pouring a liquid, which the Diocese of Brooklyn identified as juice, onto the altar, damaging the altar cloth.
In the process, the man also threw liquid at Father Jossy Vattothu, who was leading the Mass, causing his vestment to be stained.
“During my years as a priest, nothing like this has ever happened. At first, as he approached the altar, I thought he had something to tell me. 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,” said Father Vattothu.
According to the diocese, church attendees detained the man until officers from the 94th Precinct arrived. The NYPD stated that he was taken to Woodhull Hospital for evaluation.
But Vattothu expressed empathy for the troubled man.
“I pray for this person and do not know what was going through his mind. I am grateful for the parishioners who were so caring and consoled me after Mass. I would urge Catholics who attend mass to sit closer to the altar so that we as a faith community can be more together and make the priest feel more comfortable,” said Father Vattothu.
Monsignor Anthony Hernandez, who serves as chancellor of the Diocese of Brooklyn, remarked that the incident underscored a sense of fear among the faithful in these difficult times.
“It’s really egregious that somebody would do that at the most sacred part of the Catholic Mass, which is the consecration. 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,” Hernandez said.