A baptism was interrupted at Notre Dame Church in North Caldwell Sunday morning when a man entered the church during the 10:30 a.m. mass and began begging for gas money.
According to North Caldwell Police Chief Mark Deuer, Fr. Dominic Ciriaco of Notre Dame reported the disabled vehicle parked in front of the church entrance.
When police arrived they told the driver they would get him a gas can and drive him to a nearby station to fill it. The man told police he did not have any money to pay for the gas and that he would go into the church and ask people for help. Deuer said the man refused to listen to the police who advised him not to disrupt the baptism.
Inside the church, an eyewitness, who did not wish to be identified, said the man got the parishoners attention by yelling, “Excuse me!” He explained his plight and walked onto the altar where the christening was in progress.
The eyewitness said the man then sat in the priest’s chair and proceeded to cry. The man told the churchgoers that the police were not helping him and were threatening him, claims the North Caldwell police deny.
Fr. Anthony Randazzo and one of the church ushers approached the man and tried to console him. After a few minutes somebody offered the man money for gas and he was persuaded to leave the church.
The man was driven to a gas station to fill the gas can. He left the church once he had gas in his car. No charges were pressed in the incident, Deuer said.
Deuer added that the man did not commit any offenses although he appeared to be emotionally unstable.
The car, a newer Mercedes Benz 320, was registered in Georgia, but the driver, who is 29, told police he lives in Bloomfield.