Edmonton police have laid two charges against a 25-year-old man in connection to a hate crime at Edmonton’s Santa Maria Goretti church.
Police say on Dec. 13, a man allegedly interrupted the service with offensive comments and gestures. He also filmed the incident, before posting it on social media.
Edmonton Police say the video has since been removed, and the man was charged with mischief and mischief to religious property, a hate crime under the Criminal Code of Canada.
According to Grandin Media, a website that shares information from the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton, three men used false names to register for the 11 a.m. mass.
Father George Puramadathil, Santa Maria Goretti’s pastor, said he was cleaning the sacred Holy Communion items when a man came up to the altar.
“I thought maybe a youth group member, announcing something for Christmas.”
The man started speaking in Italian, before switching to English.
“He started to use very vulgar language, then I was not sure – what was his intention? Nobody moved,” Puramadathil explained.
The pastor said the man then pulled a bottle of wine out of his pocket and opened it. That’s when Puramadathil decided to intervene.
“I approached him and I said, ‘Please leave the church, we are celebrating mass, you cannot do that,’” the pastor said.
Instead of doing so, the intruder allegedly walked over to the wide, in front of a family who had just baptized their baby – dropped his pants and exposed himself.
“It was unexpected, unacceptable. Without our permission also – nobody can do such a thing in the church. It was shocking for everyone,” Puramadathil said.
As volunteers approached – the man ran out a side door and scaled a fence in his escape.
In a statement, the Catholic Archdiocese said the accused has been banned from Santa Maria Goretti and all other Archdiocese properties.
“The Archdiocese of Edmonton is grateful for the ongoing support of the Edmonton Police Service. The fact that one of the charges — mischief to religious property — is considered a hate crime, shows the seriousness of the incident,” the statement reads.
“This kind of action cannot, and will not, be tolerated.”
In its own statement, EPS wrote: “Police have made the decision not to release the suspect’s name in order to avoid contributing to social media notoriety and encouraging copycat events.”