Anti-Israel activists disrupted a Catholic mass the week before Christmas by carrying out a political demonstration at Holy Family Church in New Rochelle. The group hoisted a banner during mass and, after being asked to take down their banner, attempted to propagandize churchgoers outside the Church. By the group's own account, the parishioners rejected the group and dispersed after New Rochelle police arrived on the scene.
In an email sent out of by the pro-Hamas group, the WESPAC foundation Nick Mottern recounted the December 13th incident at the church. Sitting at the front right side of the church, opposite the choir, according to Mottern, the far-left activists stood up and raised a banner which stated the number of U.S. soldiers and citizens killed and wounded in Iraq and claimed that the United States had spent $3 trillion on the two wars. Below, the banner read "Join Us to Help End the Wars!
The group stood silently, holding up the banner for several minutes before an usher asked them to leave. Mottern says the group asked if they could stay if they lowered the banner, they were told if their "purpose was to worship, you can stay." According to Mottern, the protestors returned to their seats with a folded banner.
In his email, Mottern referenced the Deacon Raymond Hall's praying for the troops including "those killed in war."
As the Mass was nearing the end, one person with the WESTPAC group suggested they stand outside the church's main door and hold up the banner so they could talk to people as they left.
Mottern claimed that the first man leaving the church thanked them for coming and the second said, "If you had been asked to leave, I would have left." A few minutes later, according to Mottern, a black woman who claimed she was a theologian told them they should be using blogs and other means of getting their messages out and she was answered that that they had done along with letters and visits to elected officials. Mottern wrote that a police car later arrived saying there were reports of a disturbance and a policeman asked if this WESTPAC group were from New Rochelle. According to Mottern, one person in their group was from New Rochelle but had left by the time police arrived.
UPDATE: NRPD Confirms Incident
Police responded to a report of a disorderly group inside Holy family Church at 11:33 AM on 12/13/09. It was reported that the group was protesting the current wars. The report reflects that the group had left the church prior to the police arrival, and was stopped and interviewed outside.
Mottern wrote that Monsignor Berardi came out of the church and said he had been told about a disruption in the church. He said church was not a "proper place" to raise a banner. Berardi was then asked whether statements had been made on the pulpit about Afghanistan or the Afghanistan War. His answer was, "That's politics," and he asked them to move across the street. One person in the WESTPAC group replied, "The sidewalk is public property."
Mottern concluded with his impression of what Catholicism is, but apparently even in his own words, the parishioners did not agree with the group or their approach.
WESPAC claims their goal is to "urge the religious community in Westchester County to become more aggressive in opposing the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars." The group is affiliated with Code Pink, a group well-known for staging political theater at Congressional hearings and political events.
From their website:
WESPAC Foundation has been the leading force in Westchester County for peace and justice work for over three decades. WESPAC Foundation provides outreach and community to individuals, groups and leaders in civic and religious organizations in greater Westchester who find themselves without a voice or support system for their progressive positions. WESPAC Foundation's purpose is to give a human face to those who would otherwise be unrecognized victims of war, injustice and environmental degradation. WESPAC Foundation connects the people of Westchester with a progressive agenda for the planet and its peoples.
Felice Gelman of WESPAC Foundation, member of Code Pink Delegation to Gaza, speaks in Manhattan on her trip to Gaza.