NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NYPD Hates Crimes Task Force is investigating vandalism at a Brooklyn church.

Parishioners of St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church in Bensonhurst gathered in prayer Friday night for their vandalized crucifix.

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“How someone could show this hatred is just so hard to think about,” Deacon Bill Kelly told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.

The gated crucifix was knocked down and destroyed overnight, and an American flag outside the rectory was burned to ashes.

“When I saw the cross this morning, I was filled with tears, emotion, heartbreak,” church trustee Ginger Bivona said.

The damage was discovered by a parish pastor Friday morning on his way to greet students at the academy.

“It hit home because this is my home,” parishioner Louis Guida said.

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“I think as a community, we should all come together and pray and that’s all we need,” eighth grader Antonella Garuccio said.

Parishioners immediately brought a crucifix out from one of the classrooms and erected it outside as a temporary replacement.

“To let people know that they can’t knock us down,” Bivona said.

They have a message for whoever caused the damage.

“We forgive you, we love you and we need you to realize we’re all one together,” Kelly said.

The NYPD asks anyone with information to call police.

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Ali Bauman