Bishop Manuel Cruz was punched in the face in the middle of Mass on Jan. 28 in the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark, New Jersey (video below).
Churchgoers were celebrating the life of baseball player Roberto Clemente, a neighborhood hero who was also a humanitarian, notes TapIntoNewark, which first published the video.
Cruz was leading a prayer when a man dressed in white walked up to the altar, reciting, “May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.”
The man slugged Cruz, but was quickly taken into custody by police officers in the church.
Cruz had to have 30 stitches in his mouth. “I am in pain,” Cruz told WCBS. “I’m a little frightened inside. I’m only a human being, but otherwise I am OK.”
“Everybody started screaming out loud, and it was the most frightening thing you could ever see,” said Evelyn Padin, a witness. “We all threw ourselves to the floor thinking something terrible had happened, and indeed it had.”
“So, I went out and said, ‘Officer, Officer, grab him, stop him, stop him,'” Councilman Luis Quintana added. “But I couldn’t scream. I wanted to scream, ‘Bishop go down,’ but I couldn’t, it was just too [rapid].” In response to the attack, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark said: “We certainly were surprised and saddened by it, and are thankful that things were not worse than they turned out to be.”
The suspect, identified by police as Charles Miller, was charged with assault. Miller reportedly showed up early to the service, and is known by locals.
“When I was there earlier setting up, he was here very early,” Raymond Tidwell, a witness who filmed the incident, told WCBS. “He was just sitting in the pew. He got up and left, and came back.”
Cruz thinks Miller may be mentally ill, and asked people to pray for him.
“When I was on that floor, thinking that I was going to die, [an altar server] came and held me, and told me, ‘Father don’t go, I’m here,'” Cruz recalled.
One officer on the scene believed that several of Cruz’s teeth had been loosened by the punch.
WCBS Report: Part 1
WCBS Report: Part 2