The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is working with the Philadelphia Police Department to identify a woman who hit a female lector in the face during a Sunday morning Mass in the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul.
Rev. Dennis Gill said that the church contacted authorities immediately after the incident, according to local ABC affiliate WPVI. The video of the Mass, which was live-streamed on Facebook, depicts a woman smacking another woman who had just read from the scripture.
“We immediately followed up on it off-camera and it’s important for us to do that because people are at home and continuing to participate in Mass,” he said. “Nonetheless, it was very upsetting. Parishioners attending in person were shocked as were so many that watch the 11 a.m. Mass live-streamed online.”
Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson J. Perez issued a statement about the incident, which read:
During the 11:00 a.m. Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul, which was broadcast live via my Facebook page and the Archdiocesan Vimeo Channel, a senseless act of aggression took place. One of the lectors was punched by someone in the congregation as she left the altar.
Such behavior is unacceptable at all times, especially within the confines of a church building and during the celebration of the Holy Mass. I was saddened to learn of this incident and regret that it took place. The lector who was assaulted received immediate attention and assistance from Cathedral staff members off camera. She did not require medical attention and is doing well based on the reports I have received. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is working in conjunction with police regarding the matter and will cooperate with them fully. Please be assured that there are safety and security plans in place for the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. We welcome all visitors and work to provide for their safety. Violence has no place in our world and every life is a precious gift from God. Please join me in praying for everyone involved in today’s incident and for respect for our fellow brothers and sisters.
Sources told local news that the suspect had been seen at the church before but was not a parishioner, and police said she was still at large as of Sunday.
The incident comes as Catholic churches nationwide are facing a surge of vandalism and arson. As The Daily Wire reported last month, four Catholic churches in four states were vandalized over the course of one weekend:
Many of those protests are now targeting monuments. Initially, demonstrators were focused on statues of generals and other notable figures who supported the Confederacy during the civil war, but the movement has since added the Founding Fathers, former presidents, and several Catholic saints to their list of targets.