NYPD investigating toppling of crucifix at Brooklyn church as hate crime
© St. Athanasius Church

The New York Police Department’s (NYPD) hate crimes task force is investigating surveillance video of a suspect who destroyed a crucifix and burned an American flag on the property of a Catholic church in Brooklyn.

The NYPD released footage of the man they say jumped over a fence before vandalizing the relic at the St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church in Bensonhurst late Thursday night.

Church leaders said the statue depicting Jesus on the cross was smashed and the burnt flag was discovered outside of the rectory by Monsignor David Cassato early Friday morning during his walk to greet students at the academy.

Cassato grew emotional speaking with The New York Post after the incident because the crucifix had been dedicated to his late mother.

“My mother spent the last two years of her life living in the rectory,” he told the outlet. “She was sick with cancer, and she became so friendly with everybody that when she passed people wanted to do something to keep her memory alive and that is the reason we dedicated the cross to her.”

He added that the damage to the crucifix was hurtful religiously and also because of the attachment to his mother. 

“And, thirdly, the flag for the sense of solidarity with our country and the time that we are going through in our country, all this bitterness and hurt in people’s lives,” Cassato said.

ADVERTISEMENT

A temporary wooden cross with a painting of Jesus on it was erected where the statue stood until it can be repaired. Two members of the Guardian Angels stood guard after the incident.

“We’re protecting the property and keeping an eye out. We’re showing the community we’re here for them,” Guardian Angels patrol leader Jose Gonzalez told The Post. “This was a heinous act.”

Hundreds of people came to support the church during a Saturday night prayer vigil.

The church has already raised more than $3,800 as of Monday afternoon on a GoFundMe site. 

The vandalism at the historically Italian American church was condemned in a Saturday statement from Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoNew York City moving thousands of people from hotels back to shelters Bank of America: All vaccinated workers to return to office after Labor Day US Open allowing 100 percent spectator capacity at matches MORE (D).

“These acts of hate should offend and outrage every New Yorker, and I want the Bensonhurst community to know we will do everything we can to bring the cowardly vandals responsible for this to justice. Hate has no place in our state, and as New Yorkers we celebrate our diversity,” he said.