Kettering Police and Ascension Catholic Church leaders say two to three Arab men who entered the church Sunday and began videotaping the service were studying Christianity.
The men’s activity alarmed some parishioners who contacted police which prompted officers to respond.
“While their actions did arouse suspicion, we believe their actions were simply a breach of proper etiquette,” a statement on Ascension’s website read Thursday morning. “While current evidence suggests that they intended no ill will, the Kettering police and other appropriate agencies are continuing to thoroughly investigate the matter and are keeping us aware of their findings.”
Police said the individuals were questioned outside the sanctuary at the church on Sunday and told officers they were studying Christianity.
The individuals were taking videos of portions of Sunday’s mass and discontinued their filming after speaking with officers and were permitted to return to the sanctuary, church officials said in a statement.
“We have verified that the young men in question are visiting relatives here in Kettering who live next door to one of our own parishioners. Those relatives have an excellent relationship with our parishioners and have inquired a lot about Christianity,” church officials said. “The young men also expressed an interest in Christianity and seemed eager to experience Christian worship firsthand while here in America. They visited Ascension because of the relationship their family has with our parishioners and because of our reputation as a welcoming community.”
Each of the men that were investigated passed background checks and were visiting the country from Saudi Arabia. Kettering police have contacted federal authorities as part of their due diligence in their investigation.
A Kettering police report indicated the individuals also had plans to visit Philadelphia and New York during their visit to the United States.
Officials with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati said Sunday’s incident has become part of a broader discussion about safety at churches.
Archdiocese officials plan to create a comprehensive list of suggestions when it comes to safety at parishes, said Dan Andriacco, a spokesman for the archdiocese.
He said each school attached to parishes already have security plans as part of state requirements.
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