Two youths charged in East Bridgewater church fire

BRAINTREE -- Vandalism at St. John the Evangelist Church in East Bridgewater on Oct. 6 appears to be a case of "childish behavior gone wrong," according to Pastor Father Paul Ring.

Two 12-year-olds started a small fire on the altar of the church, damaging the altar cloth and a Sunday lectionary.

According to an Oct. 8 statement from the East Bridgewater Police Department, a boy and a girl started the fire on the afternoon of Oct. 6. Their names have not been released due to their age.

On Oct. 10, the East Bridgewater Police Department announced that the two children have been charged with breaking and entering a building in the daytime, destruction of property over $1,200, larceny of a building and burning of a building. They will be arraigned in Brockton District Juvenile Court at a later date.

According to police, the children attempted to put out the fire, first with water from the sacristy and then with a fire extinguisher. They also took some food from the parish food pantry. Lit candles and discarded matches were found at the church entrance.

After the fire was put out, a parishioner smelled smoke and immediately alerted Father Paul Ring.

"I'm kind of heartbroken," Father Ring told The Pilot on Oct. 10. "It's disheartening."

"They should know the sacredness of the space," he added.

The police did not identify any motive for the fire, but Father Ring wonders why they targeted the altar.

"Those are sacred objects," he said, "and to burn those says to me that there's something deeper here, that they maybe have some issue with the Church, perhaps."

Father Ring believes that the children are parishioners, and that he knows their grandparents. He has not yet met the children or their families, but he would like to. He does not want the children to go to jail, but he also doesn't want them "to get off scot free."

"I want any consequences that they face to help them... to understand what they did," he said. "How deeply they hurt the community."

He would like the children to do community service and write an apology letter to the parish.

Rather than simply punishing the children, he wants them to face "restorative justice" and learn from what they did. That way, they won't "go down the wrong road" when they grow up.