Newark, N.J., Dec 11, 2019 / 04:33 pm (CNA).- A suspect is in custody after an early-morning arson destroyed a Catholic parish in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.
James Mayers, who has been identified as a 26-year-old who lives in Franklin Lakes, was arrested shortly after a fire broke out at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish around 1:30 a.m. The fire completely destroyed the parish and was mostly extinguished by 4 a.m.
“An investigation revealed that James Z. Mayers entered the structure during the early morning hours of December 11, 2019, and purposely started the fire with the use of gasoline and a cigarette lighter. Mayers was arrested at the scene and treated by first responders for thermal injuries he sustained while starting the fire,” a statement released Wednesday afternoon by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office said.
Mayers will be charged with one account of aggravated arson and one count of burglary. It was not immediately clear what Mayers is accused of stealing. He is being held in the Bergen County Jail awaiting a court appearance.
Fire crews arrived at the parish quickly after the fire was reported and began working to put out the flames.
The township’s police captain, John Bakelaar, told to local media that “damage to the church is complete” and that “the fire was extensive.”
It is unclear if Mayers was a parishioner at Church of the Most Blessed Sacrament, had attended its school, or was in any way connected to the church.
Classes were canceled on Wednesday at Academy of the Most Blessed Sacrament, which is located near the parish building. The school was not damaged by the fire.
A statement from the Archdiocese of Newark thanked those who worked to fight the fire and who attempted to save the church building, “during frigid conditions.”
“We are moving forward to ensure parish life continues and we are currently identifying alternative sites for Masses, liturgies, and parish activities,” the archdiocese said.
“We ask everyone to please pray for all who have been affected by this incident.”
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!