A priest from Saint Joseph’s Oratory has been transported to hospital after suffering stab wounds.
“Witnesses say the priest was celebrating mass and suddenly, the suspect went towards the priest to attack him with a sharp object,” said Caroline Chèvrefils, a spokesperson with Montreal police.
Officers responded to 911 calls around 8:40 a.m. about a priest who had been assaulted with a weapon.
“What I saw is a man who was rapidly walking towards the centre. I thought he was going to kneel in front of the Saint Joseph statue,” said eye-witness Adele Plamondon, who volunteers at the Oratory every Friday.
“He quickly came up the stairs, taking a big knife out of his side and I soon realized what his intentions were, so I ran out of the church screaming to alert the security.”
Plamondon said she saw people from the church tackle the alleged assailant to the ground; there were about 50 people attending mass.
WATCH: A priest was stabbed during Friday morning mass at Saint-Joseph’s Oratory. The alleged assault was broadcast live online. As Global’s Dan Spector explains, the motive behind the attack is still unclear.
“He didn’t seem to resist. I saw the assailant on the floor. He was peaceful, he was OK. There were two men over him,” she said.
When police arrived on the scene, the 26-year-old suspect had already been detained by security agents at the oratory.
“He was arrested and transported to the detention centre to meet with investigators,” Chèvrefils said.
The priest was transported to hospital with “light wounds to the upper body.”
The man was known to police. Police say he will appear in court via video conference at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.
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The Archdioces of Montreal identified the victim as Father Claude Grou, the Oratory’s rector, taking to Twitter to say he is in stable condition.
“He [the suspect] was attending the mass, he was on the premises and he had a blade with him,” said Oratory spokesperson Céline Barbeau, who could not confirm if this was the man’s first time at mass.
“I don’t know if he was known by our personnel.”
Plamondon said she spoke to Father Grou, a 77-year-old Montrealer, after the incident.
“I said, ‘Saint Joseph protected you.’ He said, ‘I think he did.’ He was in shock,” she said.
“What a horrible and inexcusable act that has no place in Montreal,” said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.
“I am relieved to learn that the life of Father Claude Grou, rector of the Oratory, is out of danger and that his condition is stable. On behalf of all Montrealers, I wish him a speedy recovery.”
There is currently a police perimeter in place around the site.
Barbeau confirmed that the Oratory is still open, saying it is a “place of prayer, so if something happens to one of the fathers, people will want to gather to pray for them.”
“It is an absolutely safe place and we invite people to come and pray with us,” she said.
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