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DUXBURY — The pastor at Holy Family Parish said he was “shocked” upon discovering an apparent hate crime — an 8-foot charred wooden cross outside the church door at 6:30 a.m., before the 7:00 a.m. Mass on Feb. 21.
Msgr. William F. Glynn said the cross was leaning against a concrete pillar near the front door of the church. The pillar and crucifix were burnt and the wooden door had burn marks on it, but there was no major damage.
"Thank God it was on a pillar of the church, not on the door," he said.
There was also a canister of flammable material beside the cross, but it appeared that the flames had extinguished themselves quickly, he added.
Msgr. Glynn did not see any other footprints in the fresh snow, so he assessed that the crime must have happened sometime after 10:00 p.m. on Feb. 20 and before the snow started falling at 3:00 a.m. on Feb. 21.
Another cross that had not been burned was found outside a parishioner’s home.
Police arrested 19-year-old Gregory Cerne of Duxbury, a parishioner at Holy Family, in connection with the case on Feb. 22. He was arraigned the following day in Plymouth District Court. Cerne confessed to the crime and the judge released him on personal recognizance, citing his lack of any criminal history.
Msgr. Glynn said he had the opportunity to speak Cerne at the police station.
"I think the police chief wanted me down there, more to go down as a priest to talk to him than to gather information," he said.
Although the police have labeled the incident as a hate crime, Msgr. Glynn disagrees.
"It definitely is not a hate crime," he said.
Cerne confessed to the crime and was remorseful but unable to explain his motive. Cerne takes several kinds of medications and was intoxicated at the time, Msgr. Glynn said.
Msgr. Glynn said he told Cerne, “Maybe the person you have to forgive above everybody else is yourself.”
"I think as a community, we have to show some forgiveness to this young fellow," he added.
AP materials contributed to this report.