PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia police were inside the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul for security reasons Sunday morning following the violent attack of a lector last weekend. Last Sunday during mass, a woman punched a lector in the face as she walked back to her pew.
The disturbing act of violence was caught on camera during the 11 a.m. service livestream.
“It just broke our hearts, all of us,” parishioner Marie Congiusta said. “We were in shock, really. It’s very disturbing.”
“If you weren’t looking in the right direction, you probably would’ve missed it,” parishioner Peter Giuntoli said, “but it was really kind of scary.”
That woman was later identified and questioned by police but no charges were filed. The U.S. Attorney’s Office of William McSwain is now investigating the attack after McSwain said the attack “is potentially a federal crime.”
Those who regularly attend mass there say they have seen the woman at the cathedral in recent weeks. However, the lector, Sarah Contrucci, said she had never seen her attacker before and adds the woman was mumbling “something about respecting God” when she struck her in the face.
“I saw somebody there that clearly seemed to be waiting there and I was a little worried that she was going to attempt to make a scene of some sort, to disrupt the mass,” Contrucci said. “So I was thinking that I wanted to do whatever I could to keep the situation calm and respectful and so I just wanted to get back to my pew and allow the mass to resume.”
This Sunday’s mass had no issues as plain-clothed security was present inside the house of worship.
Parishioners who spoke with Eyewitness News said they wanted to try to make Sunday mass as close to normal as they could, but one said it was just not possible.
“It seemed like a normal mass, but it wasn’t. Not in our hearts,” the parishioner said. “It was very different. Many of the parishioners were drawn to this woman.”
Father Dennis Gill says the woman ran out of the cathedral and the incident was promptly handled off-camera.
Contrucci was fine and did not need any medical attention.
CBS3’s Dan Koob contributed to this report.