Vandal who swung on crucifix at Cathedral of Holy Cross ordered held on $5,000 cash bail

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A pair of construction workers had a unique assignment Wednesday at the largest church in New England: repairing a crucifix that a vandal broke while swinging on it.

A judge at Boston Municipal Court ordered the man behind the damage, Michael Patzelt, 37, of Attleboro, held on $5,000 cash bail and to stay away from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and witnesses who caught him committing the unholy act in the South End.

Officers assigned to the neighborhood for the Boston Police Department arrested Patzelt around 6:15 p.m. Tuesday after receiving a call for a suspicious person who had knocked a hat off a woman in the area of the cathedral.

“The suspect then proceeded to climb up the cross where he began to swing and hang from it, breaking off several parts of the cross,” a police release states. “The suspect broke both the statue’s arms prior to officers responding and placed him under arrest.”

Patzelt pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and malicious destruction of property during an arraignment in court Wednesday afternoon. He appeared wearing a ripped green shirt.

The judge asked the defense whether the vandalism stemmed from a “depraved heart or sick,” to which an attorney representing Patzelt responded that the Attleboro man is homeless and unemployed after the death of his grandmother.

The judge also requested the defense seek mental health counseling for Patzelt.

Samuel Jones, a prosecutor for the Suffolk District Attorney’s Office, estimated the cross that Patzelt damaged to be around 150 years old and will cost about $20,000 to repair.

“Unfortunately, the Cathedral experienced vandalism at the exterior crucifix. I have no information regarding why someone would take such an action,” said Terry Donilon, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston. “The Archdiocese will work with the Cathedral to assess the damage.”

The Cathedral of Holy Cross opened in 1875 and seats nearly 2,000 people, the largest church in New England. It also houses the largest organ built by the world-renowned Hook and Hastings Company, according to its website.

Over the years, the Cathedral has hosted some prominent events, including a Mass in memory of President John F. Kennedy with the Kennedy family and dignitaries in 1964. More recently, then-President Barack Obama addressed the nation during an interfaith service following the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013.

Workers repair the vandalized statue of Jesus at the Cathedral of Holy Cross in the South End. (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)
Workers repair the vandalized statue of Jesus at the Cathedral of Holy Cross in the South End. (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

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