Montreal Priest Stabbed During Mass on Live TV
A Catholic priest was stabbed in front of dozens of stunned worshippers as he was celebrating mass Friday morning at Montreal's St. Joseph's Oratory.
Montreal police said a 911 call was placed at around 8:40 a.m. When officers arrived at the landmark church, a male suspect was already detained by security guards.
Philip Barrett, who was sitting near the front of the church, said he saw a tall man rise from a pew and quickly walk into the sanctuary to attack Rev. Claude Grou, the Oratory's rector.
"He walked over behind the altar and he seemed to strike the priest's body,'' Barrett said. "I think the priest fell down at that time. I do remember the priest was moving away from the man but it happened so quickly there was almost no time to react."
The service was live-streamed on a Catholic channel. Video shows a tall man in a dark jacket and white baseball cap rounding the altar and charging at Grou as he thrusts his right arm toward the priest. Grou runs backward a few steps before the assailant pushes him into a banner.
As screams are heard in the background, a group of people run forward, surrounding and blocking the suspect. Others take Grou by the arms and help him to walk backstage.
Barrett said people quickly restrained the suspect, who did not struggle. He said the suspect didn't speak or call out during the attack.
Another witness, Adele Plamondon, confirmed the suspect was calm after the stabbing. "The assailant was on the ground, calm, and had two men on top of him who were holding him," she said outside the church.
Police spokeswoman Caroline Chevrefils says the victim suffered minor injuries to his upper body and was taken to hospital. The suspect was to be questioned by police Friday morning.
Grou crumpled to the ground after the attack, but appeared to be alert when paramedics wheeled him to an ambulance about 15 minutes later, Barrett said. The Montreal Catholic Diocese later reported Grou was in stable condition.
Barrett said some members of the congregation began praying, both for Grou and for the suspect.
A spokeswoman for the church confirmed that Grou was taken to hospital.
"We're reassured, because when he left the oratory he was conscious and could talk, which we see as a good sign," said Celine Barbeau.
St. Joseph's Oratory is among Canada's largest churches, and pilgrims from all over the world are drawn to its domed roof and stunning architecture.
Barrett said that he, like the rest of the roughly 60 people present, was shocked that an attack would happen in a place he has come to see as a haven.
"I really find it's a welcoming place," he said. "I just hope that as a result of this, I mean, I can imagine they're going to need more security, but I hope they can still keep that welcoming spirit."