Statue, display vandalized outside Brooklyn church; police searching for suspect

BENSONHURST, Brooklyn (WABC) -- Police are searching for a suspect after a Brooklyn church was vandalized.

Someone knocked over the Crucifix outside Saint Athanasius Roman Catholic Church on 61st Street and Bay Parkway in Bensonhurst.

The damaged Crucifix was discovered by the parish pastor, Monsignor David Cassato, around 8 a.m. Friday on his walk from the rectory to the academy to greet the students.

The statue of Jesus, the cross, and the display were all damaged. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help restore the church.

"This was truly an act of hatred and today is the saddest day of my twenty years here at this parish," said Monsignor David Cassato. "I went over and spoke to the students in the school about what happened, telling them that hate never wins. We are, and must be, a community that continues to share the message of Easter, that which is of love, hope, and forgiveness."Churchgoers packed the street on Friday night praying in solidarity.

For Barbara Loughlin, it has been 27 years since she has been a member of Saint Athanasius. She was shocked when she heard what happened to their beloved Jesus statue overnight.

"I couldn't believe it. I walked past here today, and I didn't see it," Loughlin said.

The statue was deliberately toppled over - the wooden pieces were broken, and the American flag hanging at the rectory were burned.

"We are a people of God - we love everyone, we accept all," said church trustee Ginger Bivona.

A poster was stolen from their sister church St. Dominic's a week ago was found slashed on the lawn - suggesting the two incidents could be related.

"It's terrible - no house of worship should have to experience anything like this," Loughlin added.

Whatever the person responsible was trying to accomplish did not work - rather parishioners say it brought them together, and they are hoping that the suspect finds the right path.

The community is overriding the hate, simply by spreading the message of unity and love.

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