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Vandals hit Rosedale church in fourth attack

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A blessing became a curse Tuesday for a crucifix outside a Rosedale church.

For the second time in two weeks, a large statue of Christ was vandalized late at night in front of St. Clare Roman Catholic Church at 137-35 Brookville Blvd. The four-foot icon, initially damaged on Sept. 25, was repaired with the help of a parishioner and then returned to its perch on Friday.

The crucifix received its blessing from Monsignor James Cooney immediately after Sunday’s 10:30 a.m. mass — a ceremony that took place less than 48 hours before the statue’s second desecration.

“The person or persons banged it apart with some blunt object and broke the shoulders and put holes in each arm,” Cooney said. “They couldn’t break it apart. I guess it was too strong.”

The statue’s arms had been reinforced with metal rods after the first incident, when the rest of the icon was knocked from the cross, apparently by a garbage can found at the scene.

“We have no indication of who did it or why they did it,” Cooney said. “We have no motive.”

The incident is the fourth act of vandalism committed against St. Clare in the past two months. A shrine containing a statue of St. Theresa was damaged on Aug. 11, and a pane protecting the church’s stained glass windows was broken on Sept. 19.

A police source said the four incidents, all of which are being investigated as bias crimes, have not been linked to other recent acts of vandalism at Roman Catholic churches in Queens.

“We still don’t have any leads or suspects,” said a source from the 105th Precinct. “But we’re working with the Hate Crime Task Force on it.”

Police arrested three male youths last month in connection with the toppling of a statue outside St. Gregory the Great Church in Bellerose.

Peter Rancans, 47, of Bayside, was recently charged with spray-painting graffitti on the front wall and doors of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church on 203rd Street in Bayside.

However, law enforcement officials believe the four crimes are related and that the church has become a target.

Nonetheless, Cooney refuses to be deterred from returning the crucifix to its natural state.

“We’re going to get the statue repaired and put it up again and hope that no one vandalizes it again,” Cooney said. “People feel very bad about (the crimes). They come and pray at that statue after the church closes.”

Police have requested that anyone with information about the vandalism at St. Clare contact the Hate Crime Task Force at (646) 610-5267.

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

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