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St. Thomas More Co-Cathedral holds mass after sanctuary arson

Posted at 10:24 PM, Jun 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-10 07:39:26-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — People filled the seats inside of St Thomas More Cathedral for their first Sunday mass since the sanctuary was set on fire.

Police say that fire was set on purpose. Now, the Rector of the Cathedral is moving forward and hoping to bring his congregation along with him.

Sunday, the charred chairs remain as a symbol of forgiveness. Like every other Sunday, people show up for mass at St. Thomas More Co-Cathedral.

"Definitely this Sunday's experience was different from last Sunday's experience," said Father John Cayer, the Rector of the Co-Cathedral of Saint Thomas More.

Marcella and Anthony Coresentino didn't know what had happened earlier in the week.

Police say Seth Johnson walked into the St. Thomas More Co Cathedral Sanctuary and set fire to the cathedral and chairs. The moment the Coresentinos saw the damage, they bowed their heads.

"Praying for that person, yeah. I think that's the only avenue we have spiritually to do," said the Corsentinos.

Father Cayer's message for Mass focused on how the congregation can do more.

"The great act of any Christian service, particularly Catholic Mass is one of forgiveness," said Cayer.

Father Cayer's path to forgiveness began with a call from the accused arsonist's father.

"The first thing that Mr. Johnson wanted to relay was his profound sorrow of what his son did and he wanted to ask for forgiveness for what his son did," said Cayer.

That conversation then turned to Mr. Johnson's relationship with his son.

"He went on to explain the mental illness that Seth has been suffering with for years. He had been living on the streets for years, refusing mental health help," said Cayer.

Showing Cayer the greater meaning of the tragedy is that there are more people suffering from mental illness and it's up to him and others to reach out and try to help.

Father Cayer says what's most important is that no one was hurt. The chairs will be replaced and cleaned this week.