Vandals toppled a statue of Jesus and burned an American flag outside a Catholic church in Brooklyn, N.Y. in a possible hate crime, authorities said.
The vandal reportedly jumped the fence at St. Athanasius Church in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn around 10 p.m. on Thursday, according to the New York Post. The suspect then tipped over a statue of Jesus’ crucifixion, smashing it to pieces, and set an American flag hanging outside the rectory aflame, police said.
Monsignor David Cassato, the church’s pastor, discovered the damage on Friday morning and reported it to the NYPD, according to a statement from the Diocese of Brooklyn.
The NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force is investigating.
“This was truly an act of hatred, and today is the saddest day of my twenty years here at this parish,” Cassato said in a statement.
The crucifix, which was installed in memory of Cassato’s mother, had been a fixture at the church since 2010.
“I went over and spoke to the students in the school about what happened, telling them that hate never wins,” Cassato said. “We are, and must be, a community that continues to share the message of Easter, that which is of love, hope, and forgiveness.”
The parish plans to repair and reinstall the Crucifix in the same location.