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2 Men Wanted For Punching, Robbing Priest Outside Staten Island Church

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A Staten Island pastor celebrated mass with a black eye Thursday, after being punched and robbed in front of his parish.

As CBS2's Esha Ray reported, surveillance video captured the early morning attack.

At 5:05 a.m., two men were seen walking along Castleton Avenue in the West Brighton section of Staten Island and taking a right on Bodine Street. There on the steps of Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Benedicta Church stood the Rev. Marc Roselli – not yet wearing his collar.

Rev. Marc Roselli
The Rev. Marc Roselli of of Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Benedicta Church on Staten Island. (Credit: USA Northeast Jesuits)

Before he was able to enter, the men punched him and robbed him at gunpoint of his wallet, cellphone and car.

"Five o'clock in the morning, to be woken up by gun pointed at you and a punch to the face -- no one wants that, right?" said Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Benedicta head pastor Rev. Mark Hallinan. "So you know, he's resting comfortably and just focusing on his work."

Halinan spoke on behalf or Roselli, who would not speak on camera. But CBS2 did get Roselli on the phone, and he said he was completely OK.

The only mark the attack left was a black eye, which was completely visible at noon mass and left parishioners surprised.

"It's very sad -- our society is in bad shape. It's in real bad shape," said parishioner Michael DelPriori. "Nobody respects each other. Nobody loves each other. And t's a sad, sad commentary on where we've become as people.

Roselli is immensely popular with his parishioners.

"He's a very nice guy. He's very compassionate. He's very helpful. He explains things very well," altar boy Miguel Gelvis told 1010 WINS' Al Jones.

For the church community, the big question Thursday afternoon was why anyone would want to attack a priest. They all know Father Roselli to be a humble man, and they do not understand what he could have that was so valuable.

"How much money can this guy have?" said Margherita Cuffaro. "Is it worth it? No."

"It's stupid," said Rosa Palmiero. "People, they're stupid, you know."

Police did recover the car four blocks away, according to NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce. They also told Roselli he would get his wallet and phone back.

At mass on Thursday, Roselli made no mention of the attack. But he said he still prays to God that it does not happen again.

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