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Pastor forgives attackers, urges them to turn from crime

BALTIMORE (CNS) — Three days after he was pistol-whipped and robbed, the pastor of St. Leo the Great Parish in Baltimore’s Little Italy said he has been overwhelmed by support from his parish and the wider community as he heals from his injuries and takes time to come to terms with what happened.

“My message for (the man and woman who did this) is that they should consider a change of life and look at things differently and realize that doing violence and crime just makes a bad situation worse,” said Pallottine Father Bernard Carman.

The pastor emphasized the importance of forgiveness.

“Our calling is to be better — to be different and follow the Lord and what he did,” Father Carman told the Catholic Review, Baltimore’s archdiocesan news outlet. “At the very worst moment of his life, hanging on the cross, not only did he say, ‘Father, forgive them,’ but he even made an excuse saying they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Father Carman, who had been recovering from Nov. 9 vascular surgery, arrived at St. Leo around 4 p.m. Nov. 12. He was planning to assist a visiting priest with a wedding rehearsal that had been planned for that afternoon.

After getting out of his car, he was approached by a man and a woman. The man demanded the priest’s wallet before hitting him on his head with the gun. The attacker stole the wallet while his accomplice took Father Carman’s cellphone. During the assault, Father Carman fell and hit his head on a wall.

“I was surprised they didn’t shoot because that would have been possible,” said Father Carman, noting that he had about $100 in his wallet. “The man pointed the gun at me, but instead of firing, he hit me with it.”

Father Carman said bystanders aided him, along with police. He received medical attention in an ambulance and did not need to be hospitalized. He made a police report, but did not get a good look at the suspects, he said.

The priest said he has received dozens of phone messages and posts on the church’s Facebook account wishing him well.

Father Carman noted that there have been a few incidents in the neighborhood in recent months involving robberies. He has never been attacked before, he said.

“There are things happening sporadically,” he said.

Father Carman said his physical injuries are basically healed, but he is still grappling with the gravity of what happened to him.

“The injury on the top of my head is far, far better,” the priest said. “I’m just coming down from the experience. I need to take the time to process it and to heal.”

By George P. Matysek Jr. | Catholic News Service


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