A 25-year-old Edmonton man has been sentenced for his role in disrupting Mass at Santa Maria Goretti church and briefly posting an obscenity-laden video online.

On July 21, the suspect pleaded guilty to a charge of mischief to religious property – a hate crime under the Criminal Code – and mischief. As a result, he was given community service, put on a 12-month probation period, and given conditions. One of those conditions is that he is banned from Santa Maria Goretti Church. Separately, the suspect is banned from all Archdiocese of Edmonton property.

Edmonton police and the Archdiocese of Edmonton are not naming the suspect.

On Dec. 13, three men attended the 11 a.m. Mass registering under false names. Shortly after Holy Communion, the suspect went to the ambo – or podium – uninvited. The suspect then ran out a side door and scaled a locked gate.

Since then, parish volunteers are taking extra time to check different parts of the church and using the security camera more efficiently to keep the community safer, said Rev. George Puramadathil, the pastor of Santa Maria Goretti church.

Father Puramadathil said that the incident was unacceptable and it was a shock that the incident was premeditated.  Father Puramadathil hopes that the parish will move on from this incident. He is ready to offer spiritual support to the young man.

On the Sunday after the incident, Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith celebrated Mass at Santa Maria Goretti church offering consolation and support and blessing the ambo, sanctuary and the congregation itself. 

Police report there were 37 hate-related charges laid in Edmonton this year.

Nationally, hate crimes abated slightly in 2018, with a 13-per-cent drop in police-reported incidents, according to Statistics Canada. Religion is a significant motivator, with 36 per cent of 2018 hate crimes directed at religious targets.

The latest hate crime statistics from Statistics Canada show Jews are the most targeted group in the country, Muslims saw a dramatic 50-per-cent decrease in hate crime incidents in 2018, after hitting a record high of 349 attacks in 2017. Catholics were hit by haters just two per cent of the time, despite constituting 38 per cent of Canada’s population.