Pastor says flames did not engulf tabernacle in arson attack on Catholic church in Maryland

Maisy Sullivan   By Maisy Sullivan for CNA

 

Father Samuel Giese, pastor of St. Jane Frances de Chantal Catholic Parish in Bethesda, Maryland, speaks on “EWTN Nightly News” on July 11, 2022, about the arson and vandalism that damaged his church. / Screenshot from EWTN Nightly News

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 12, 2022 / 14:56 pm (CNA).

The pastor of a Catholic church in Bethesda, Maryland, targeted by an arson attack over the weekend has clarified that the fire did not reach the parish’s tabernacle.

video posted on the YouTube channel of St. Jane Frances de Chantal Catholic Parish appeared to show the tabernacle engulfed in flames. However, Father Samuel Giese told CNA on Monday that the flames were only reflections in a window behind the tabernacle from pews in front of the altar.

“There was no fire in the sanctuary,” Giese later told “EWTN News Nightly.”

The attack in the early morning hours Sunday caused no structural damage to the church, he said, though statues were overturned and the Stations of the Cross were torn down. While the tabernacle did not catch fire, its doors were pried open and the consecrated hosts were scattered on the ground. You can watch Giese’s full interview “EWTN Nightly News” in the video below.

Two other nearby churches were vandalized early Saturday morning, authorities said. A fire at North Bethesda United Methodist Church caused minor damage and headstones were damaged on the grounds of Wildwood Baptist Church, the Washington Post reported.

At the start of the live-streamed Mass, Giese told the congregation that he believed the parish was targeted because of the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion.

“In these types of events, there’s that initial distress of seeing your worship space vandalized and attacked,” he said. “But what is so edifying, really, is the response of everyone.”

On Monday, Giese said the parish has received an outpouring of support from the community as well as from Cardinal Wilton Gregory and other pastors in the Archdiocese of Washington. Another local parish hosted a funeral Mass for one of his parishioners because St. Jane Frances de Chantal was closed for repairs, he said.

“The response is so touching and so warm and so positive,” Giese said. While the attack on the parish is upsetting, he said, the support has been a “wonderful consolation.”

Anyone who may have information is asked to call the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service tip line at 240-777-2263.


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