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Vandals strike Rosedale Catholic church again

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The latest act in a series of three desecrations committed in the past seven weeks against a Roman Catholic church in Rosedale has left police with few clues and no suspects.

But parish officials believe the crimes, two of which appear to have been carried out in similar fashion, may be linked.

As children headed to school at St. Clare Catholic Church at 137-35 Brookville Boulevard on Sept. 25, several pupils discovered the remnants of a large crucifix on the ground in front of the parish. Monsignor James Cooney, a priest at St. Clare for the past six years, said a city trash can was apparently used to knock the statue of Christ from a large cross positioned near the sidewalk.

“Every indication was that a wastepaper basket was thrown at the crucifix,” Cooney said. “Down came the corpus, and the two arms were separated from the body.”

Cooney noted that a neighbor heard a loud noise early that morning around 4 a.m. The Police Department’s Hate Crime Task Force, which is investigating the desecrations, has deemed them possible bias crimes. A task force source said no arrest has been made in the case and investigators have no solid leads.

The incident mirrors vandalism committed at St. Clare on Aug. 11, when a statue of St. Theresa located on the back lawn between the church and rectory was knocked from its shrine. In both incidents, a metal trash can was found near the crime scene.

“They were damaged the same way,” Cooney said. “I think [the two incidents] are connected, but I don’t know. It was the exact same method.”

On Sept. 19, church officials discovered a broken layer of glass amid a protective shield over the church’s stained glass windows but refrained from reporting the incident to police.

Michael Bryan, deputy inspector of the 105th Precinct, said the crimes were unrelated to recent acts of desecration at two other Roman Catholic churches in Queens.

Within the past two weeks, police arrested three male youths, all local residents, in connection with the toppling of a statue outside St. Gregory the Great Church in Bellerose. Early last month, Peter Rancans, 47, of Bayside, was arrested for allegedly spray-painting graffiti on the front wall and doors of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church on 203rd Street in Bayside.

“There is no connection between the St. Gregory incident and the St. Clare incidents,” Bryan said. “We’re almost certain of that.”

Although the three acts of vandalism committed at St. Clare appear to be related to one another, Cooney could only speculate as to the crimes’ motives and perpetrators.

“We have no idea, no individual, no one who has been at odds with the church, or at least expressed it,” Cooney said. “We have no way of knowing.”

Cooney said the statue of Christ, valued at $2,000, will soon return to the cross in front of St. Clare. A parishioner had the 4-foot-tall icon repaired free of charge. The statue of St. Theresa remains safe in the church sacristy.

Bryan said the Hate Crimes Task Force is treating the case “very seriously” and that anyone with information about the crimes should call the task force at (646) 610-5267.

“I hope we have the same success we had with St. Gregory’s, as far as getting some answers and some closure to this,” Bryan said.

Reach reporter Joe Whalen by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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