Rebuilding Of Glory Of Christ Church Set To Begin; '666', 'Hail Of Satan' Spray-Painted On Walls

NY Daily News - December 11, 2009

by Ben Chapman, Jonathan Lemire and Joe Kemp

The rebuilding of the Bronx church that went up in flames Wednesday can begin as early as Friday, parishioners said.

"You can feel the hate of the people who did this," said Raymond Talavera, the pastor of Glory of Christ Church. "It being Christmastime exacerbates the pain."

The early-morning blaze, which is being investigated as arson, caused more than $400,000 worth of damage, Talavera said.

A pentagram, "666" and "Hail of Satan" were spray-painted on the walls of the charred sanctuary, along with an ominous message: "We hate Jews and Christians."

The nondenominational congregation moved into the former synagogue more than eight years ago.

In the fall of 2006, the church opened a soup kitchen after a donation from former Yankees outfielder Bobby Murcer, who gave $5,000 after his chauffeur mentioned the project.

A few months later, Murcer was diagnosed with the brain tumor that took his life in 2008.

"I helped build this place in the summer of 2001," said church member Jose Santos, 43. "I have a really heavy heart, but I know we're going to rebuild and [it will] be better than it was before."

Although parishioners expect to start renovations to the church, they know it will be impossible to finish before the holidays.

"We have nowhere to observe Christmas," Talavera said.

The blaze broke out just before 4 a.m., and it took more than 100 firefighters more than an hour to put out the flames, officials said.

The fire is still under investigation, but a pile of wooden chairs was found in the center of the sanctuary with a red gasoline can.

So far, investigators have no suspects.