St. Thomas More rector: We have to ‘forgive this heinous crime’

"We will get beyond this."

The rector of the Roman Catholic church in Tallahassee damaged Wednesday in what appears to be arson is telling churchgoers the “intentional act has created an open wound.”

But the Rev. John B. Cayer of the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More also said in a Thursday email that “we will do what we do best and that means forgiving this heinous crime.” (An earlier story is here.)

“… Jesus cried from the cross, the worse of all crimes and injustices, and said, ‘Father forgive them,’ ” he added. “Let’s not carry the weight of this crime too long, but pray and resolve to move beyond and higher to where God wants us to be.”

The cathedral, across from the Florida State University campus, is known for hosting a “Red Mass of the Holy Spirit” every Legislative Session to “pray for divine inspiration and guidance for those serving in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government and for members of the legal profession.”

Local, state and federal investigators are taking part in a joint investigation; Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis earlier Thursday said the blaze was “apparently intentional.”

Cayer called it “very intentional”: “The presider chair, deacon chairs and Cathedra (bishop’s chair) were burned. The flames have charred the back wall, and smoke filled the church so densely that I could barely see where anything was when it was burning.”

The church is part of the Catholic Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, led by Bishop William A. Wack.

“As Christians we see things more deeply and at a higher view point, meaning, we will get beyond this,” he said. “This is the Paschal Mystery (life, death and resurrection). We will rise from these ashes and become better, more resolved, more committed to what we stand for.”

Cayer said daily Masses will continue in the chapel at 7 a.m., and in O’Brian Hall at 5:15 p.m.: “Our goal is to be ready to use our main church for this weekend vigil at 5:15 p.m. and Sunday masses at 9:30 a.m., 11:45 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday (Mass) at 8 a.m. will be in the Hall.”

A “Sanctuary Fund” has been opened to pay for repairs, Cayer said: “More information will be coming out soon.”

“… Please be careful not to give to individuals who may mask as helping us,” he said. “Unfortunately, these are opportunities where so many can be scammed.”

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at [email protected].

One comment

  • Cogent Observer

    June 6, 2019 at 8:54 pm

    It is awful that this occurred. It is also unfortunate that the leader of the church seems to be so forgiving. The depravity of the person or persons who did this does not deserve the depth of forgiveness for which the church leader advocates. None of us will ever know whether the wrongdoer will get the kind of treatment that he/she genuinely deserves after death and “meets” the entity that you believe metes out ultimate penalties or forgiveness. As much as I believe that your overall belief system is irrational, this should not have happened to your church. Temporal, worldly punishment is the only kind that is warranted. The criminal is beyond “saving.” Respectfully, expend time and energy in assisting (not trying to convert) people who are needy for reasons that are not of their own making, not in forgiving people who, by their actions, have shown that they are not worth the effort. And no, not everyone is worth the effort.

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