NEW YORK — After a swastika was found painted on the doors of the cathedral of the diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Bishop Frank Caggiano blasted the “brazen and disgusting display of ant-Semitism,” adding that it is “morally abhorrent and an affront to our Catholic faith.”
Police found the painting on Friday morning on the doors of the Cathedral of St. Augustine during a regular patrol, and as of Sunday, they had yet to identify the perpetrator. Investigators are relying on surveillance footage from nearby businesses and residences in hopes of resolving the crime.
“It is deeply distressing to see such a display of hatred at a time when we need to strengthen our efforts to come together as a community in mutual respect and support,” Caggiano’s statement continued.
“My thoughts and prayers are with our Jewish brothers and sisters in the city of Bridgeport and beyond. We stand with you and condemn every form of anti-Semitism, racism, and bigotry wherever it may be found,” he said.
Caggiano is currently away from the diocese on retreat with the bishops of the United States at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago in response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis. He said he was informed of the incident on Saturday afternoon.
“I am deeply disturbed and outraged that someone would violate the sanctity of our Church,” he wrote. “To use a clearly anti-Semitic symbol is participating in unspeakable evil. I know I speak for everyone at the Cathedral Parish and the Diocese as we condemn the act, we condemn what it signifies, and we hope the perpetrator will be found.”
In an interview with News 12 Connecticut, Bridgeport Police Chief AJ Perez said, “It’s alarming to me because this kind of hateful message cannot be tolerated anywhere, specifically in this city of Bridgeport.”
“It is a multicultural city,” Perez added, saying “I believe there is a lot of intolerance out there in the world right now and you have people for whatever reason, hate for the sake of hating.”
Across the globe, anti-Semitism has been on the rise in recent years.
According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), anti-Semitic incidents increased by 57 percent in the United States in 2017 compared to the previous year. In addition, cases of anti-Semitism were reported in every single state in 2017 for the first time since 2010, with nearly 2,000 reported incidents throughout the United States.
Data from 2018 is not yet available.
Last October, the United States experienced the worst attack on Jewish people in its history when a gunman entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during Shabbat services, opened fire and killed eleven individuals and wounded seven others.
In Nostra aetate, the Second Vatican Council’s “Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions,” the Catholic Church re-examined its relationship with the Jewish people and called on all Catholics and called for a greater dialogue and encounter between the two religions.
Christians and Jews should “further their mutual knowledge of and respect for one another, a knowledge and respect deriving primarily from biblical and theological studies and fraternal dialogues,” the document stated.
In 1986, Pope John Paul II declared that “With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers, and in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.”
Following the incident in Bridgeport, local councilwoman Karen Jackson, who is a practicing Jew, told News 12 Connecticut that the cathedral has a history of being an ally with the local Jewish community.
“Whoever did this knows what they’re doing,” she maintained. “But we are fighting against this.”
“They’re not going to break us apart,” she insisted.