NEWARK, N.J. (CNN) — Authorities, parishioners and clergy are seeking answers after a man walked up to the altar during Catholic Mass and punched an auxiliary bishop in the mouth.
Bishop Manuel Cruz leads prayers on Saturday afternoon inside Newark’s Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Jersey. During service, a man dressed in white with a matching hat meandered toward the altar and swung at the bishop, punching him in the mouth and knocking him to the ground.
The man is then tackled by police. “It was a very shocking and horrific moment,” said Mark Bonamo.
Bonamo was at Mass on Saturday and remembers watching the man step out of a middle pew where he had been sitting alone.
“As a former altar boy, a lot of people thought, ‘oh he might be part of the Mass,’ but I myself thought it was little odd right off from the gate. Then when he walked up and hit the man in the face, hit Bishop Cruz in the face, people were shocked. Some people ducked, others screamed,” he said.
The church was filled with officers who immediately took the man into custody. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark says, “we certainly were surprised and saddened by it, and are thankful that things were not worse than they turned out to be.”
Bonamo says the bizarre attack has not deterred him from the cathedral rather it’s bringing him closer. “I’m going in right now. I’m going to say a Hail Mary for Bishop Cruz. He deserves it.”
Suspect Charles Miller is charged with aggravated assault. The motive for his attack was not clear.
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