Parishioners of St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church in Bensonhurst woke up Friday to find their gated crucifix was knocked down and destroyed and an American flag outside the rectory was burned to ashes.
The church has since erected a temporary crucifix, but they are determined to replace what was destroyed, CBS2's Christina Fan reported Sunday.
Parishioners said they don't understand how someone could've been motivated by enough hate to jump a fence and knock down the crucifix that stood outside the church for 11 years.
The church's community overcame hatred with love this weekend. A new flag was brought in to replace the one that was burned.
"It was a terrible morning. It was probably the saddest day in my life, to see this desecration of a cross of Jesus and the desecration of the flag," said Monsignor David Cassato.
At first, parishioners believed wind may have knocked over the crucifix. But Cassato said someone deliberately jumped the fence and tore it down then lit up the American flag hanging outside the rectory.
Police are asking for help identifying the suspect who was caught on newly released surveillance video.
Parishioners gathered in prayer Friday night to try to make sense of the desecration.
"How someone could show this hatred is just so hard to think about," said Deacon Bill Kelly.
"It hit home because this is my home," said Louis Guida, a parishioner.
"I think as a community we should all come together and pray and just that's all we need," said Antonella Garuccio, an 8th grade student.
Parishioners brought out a crucifix from one of the classrooms and erected it as a temporary replacement.
"To let people know that they can't knock us down," said Ginger Bivona, a church trustee.
Their message to the person responsible for the damage: "We forgive you, we love you and we need you to realize that we are all one together," Kelly said.
The NYPD Hate Crime Task Force is investigating the vandalism. Anyone with information is asked to call police.
CBS2's Christina Fan contributed to this report.
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