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Examiner
  • Newtown church evacuated after threat

  • NEWTOWN, Conn. – A Sunday afternoon Mass at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church was cut short after a reported bomb threat came into police that prompted an evacuation of the property and brought a SWAT team response.

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  • NEWTOWN, Conn. – A Sunday afternoon Mass at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church was cut short after a reported bomb threat came into police that prompted an evacuation of the property and brought a SWAT team response.
    After a 90-minute sweep of the property by heavily armed officers who entered the church and its education center with guns drawn, police cleared the scene. No injuries were reported, but at least one woman was taken away by ambulance after collapsing on the front lawn during the evacuation.
    Diocesan officials decided to keep the campus on lockdown through Sunday, and offered no timeline for when it may open again, though a busy week is planned there.
    It was the latest dramatic turn of events in a community where emotions are ragged following Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 26 people – including 20 children – dead.
    Sunday’s service was halted about 12:30 p.m., when Monsignor Robert Weiss interrupted a younger priest during his homily to inform worshippers of the threat before spearheading the evacuation of about 500 people.
    Weiss told several media outlets a person called him and said “I’m coming to kill, I’m coming to kill.”
    “Obviously, it’s an enormously trying time. The families have suffered a great deal … so it’s extremely difficult, and we felt in the best interest of just protecting everyone that it was best to close down the church for today,” said Brian Wallace, communications director for the diocese of Bridgeport, which includes Newtown.
    Wallace met with reporters outside the church about an hour after the incident.
    He said the parish will host eight funerals this week, and diocesan officials are offering counseling and other resources to families affected by the attack.
    “I don’t think anybody can be surprised by anything after what’s happened, but our main concern is the work of the church and the pastors here,” Wallace said. “There is a great deal of healing and mending to be done, and that’s what the parish is about.”
    Nancy Elis, a 28-year resident of Newtown who recently moved to nearby Southbury, was in the area when the police arrived. She offered her thoughts to reporters during an emotional interview just outside St. Rose of Lima.
    “This is a war zone. It just feels so wrong,” she said. “This is incomprehensible to me. I have always felt safe in this town, and I just pray that we will bind together in heartfelt grief. Everyone’s pain is similar.”
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