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Catholic priest attacked with glass bottle while praying at cathedral in Scotland
St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland. / Gastao at English Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Edinburgh, Scotland, Jul 27, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

A Catholic priest escaped without injury on Monday after he was attacked by a man wielding a glass bottle as he prayed at a cathedral in Scotland.

The archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh said on July 27 that the “violent and unprovoked assault” took place at St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh after the man asked the victim if he was a priest.

“Yesterday morning (Monday 26 July) a priest sitting alone praying in a pew at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh was subject to a violent and unprovoked assault by a man carrying a glass bottle,” said the archdiocese.

“Just prior to the attack the man had asked him if he was a priest. When the priest replied that he was, the man attempted to hit him on the head with the bottle, before chasing him to the back of the cathedral.”

“The bottle broke on the ground and the man continued using it in his assault. The priest managed to fend him off with a chair before the attacker ran out of the cathedral. The priest escaped without injury.”

The archdiocese, which covers Scotland’s capital city and surrounding areas, urged anyone with information to contact Police Scotland.

According to Scottish media, a spokeswoman for the national police force said that officers were called at 9:35 a.m. on July 26 following a report of a 35-year-old man being assaulted.

“Officers attended and the victim did not require hospital treatment,” she said, adding that police inquiries were ongoing.

Pope Francis is expected to visit Scotland “for a very short time” in November, a spokesperson for the country’s bishops’ conference confirmed earlier this month.

The pope is likely to attend the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) taking place in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, on Nov. 1-12.

Catholics are a minority in Scotland, comprising just 16% of the total population of 5.5 million people. But the Catholic Parliamentary Office of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said in 2019 that Catholics were “disproportionately targeted in terms of religiously aggravated offending.”

In 2018, there were four assaults on priests in Scotland, the Catholic Parliamentary Office said.

The Scottish government report “Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland 2017-2018” found that Catholicism was “the religion that was most often the subject of reported abuse, with 319 charges for 2017-18,” out of a total of 642 charges.

Another report, “Hate Crime in Scotland 2019-20,” said that there were 660 religiously aggravated charges recorded in 2019-20 — 24% higher than in 2018-19.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) published data in November documenting more than 500 hate crimes against Christians in Europe in 2019.

Incidents included attacks against Catholic priests, arson attacks on Catholic churches, the destruction of images of the Virgin Mary, vandalism of a pregnancy counseling center, and the theft of consecrated Eucharistic hosts from tabernacles.

In total, there were 595 incidents against Christians documented by OSCE. Of these, 459 were attacks against property, and 80 were attacks against people.

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