Pastor Says Flames Did Not Engulf Tabernacle in Arson Attack on Catholic Church in Maryland
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.
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.
A 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,” Father Giese later told EWTN News Nightly.
The attack in the early morning hours on 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 Father Giese’s full interview on 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 livestreamed Mass, Father 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, Father 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,” Father 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.
- church vandalism