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UPDATED: Worshippers flee Newtown Catholic church following threat report

Brian McCready, New Haven Register

Publication: theday.com

Published December 16. 2012 1:00PM   Updated December 16. 2012 6:28PM
David Goldman/AP Photo
A SWAT team walks out of the rectory of St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church while responding to a bomb threat, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. Worshippers hurriedly left the church Sunday, not far from where a gunman opened fire Friday inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

NEWTOWN — St. Rose of Lima Church was evacuated Sunday during its noon Mass after the church received a threatening phone call.

A monsignor at the church told a digital television network Ora.TV that a man had called and said, "I’m coming to kill, I’m coming to kill."

Bridgeport Diocese spokesman Brian Wallace said a threat was called into the church while the noon Mass was ongoing. The threat pledged to disrupt the Mass, and the pastor announced there was a threat to parishioners, Wallace said. The pastor instructed the full congregation to evacuate in an orderly fashion.

"Monsignor Weiss, the pastor, calmly stepped up, interrupted (the priest) and told people there was a threat to the church. He asked them to leave immediately, people left very calmly with great resolution. I think additional sadness in their faces and levels of distress, but we feel very pleased that they are home and with their families and the parish will resume activities shortly, but for today everything will be locked down and give people a chance to rest."

When asked by another reporter if this was surprising, Wallace said, "I don't think any of us could be surprised about anything after what's happened."

State police said as of 2 p.m. the scene is "all clear," but the church will remain locked for the rest of Sunday.

The building has been locked to "restore some sense of calm," Wallace said.

During the evacuation, several police officers with guns drawn were located around St. Rose of Lima Church and the adjacent St. Rose Parish Religious Education Center. One cop said he was behind a tree for a reason. Another cop told passerbys to move away from the area.

At 1:10 p.m. about six men dressed in camouflage exited the church's education center and conferred with local police. They officers had large shields and guns drawn.

Church officials have decided to cancel all scheduled activities for the rest of the day. No specific information concerning the threat was made public.

People can still drop off flowers, police said, to the church.

There will be eight funerals at St. Rose of Lima Church.

Register reporter Jennifer Swift contributed to this story.

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