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In Wake of Notre Dame Panic, Man Caught with Accelerant in Iconic NYC Cathedral

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A college philosophy professor was arrested Wednesday and later charged with attempted arson at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.

Essex County Sheriffs Officers took 37-year-old Marc Lamparello into custody around 8 p.m. on Wednesday, days after the fire at Notre Dame. He was charged the following day.

He had also been arrested earlier in the week after refusing to leave Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark, New Jersey, the New York Police Department told Reuters.

A police official said Lamparello, a New Jersey resident, was charged with second-degree attempted arson, second-degree reckless endangerment and trespassing after he entered the Roman Catholic cathedral.

Lamparello entered the cathedral carrying two gasoline cans and lighter fluid Wednesday, according to CBS News.

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The massive cathedral, which opened its doors in 1879, is located across from Rockefeller Center on Fifth Avenue. Masses and tours are held daily and visitors come from around the world to this iconic location.

Masses will be held Easter weekend with additional security in place.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Miller told reporters that gasoline had spilled on the floor of the cathedral when security confronted the 37-year-old man on Wednesday, leading him to claim he had run out of gas and was walking through the cathedral to reach his van on the other side.

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Miller added that the FBI’s joint terrorism task force became involved “because we don’t know exactly what his mindset was, what his motive was.”

It was not immediately clear whether Lamparello was inspired by the Notre Dame fire but the Associated Press reported that terrorism was not suspected.

The AP reported that Lamparello was a philosophy instructor who has taught at New York City’s Lehman and Brooklyn colleges and Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Lehman’s website listed him as a doctoral candidate at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center.

The Notre Dame fire, which captured worldwide attention, has citizens and clergy on edge as Easter weekend approaches.

In light of other recent church fires, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who presides over Saint Patrick’s, offered hope today and praised the security at the cathedral.

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“We’ve got a very well trained interior security staff,” he told the New York Post. “We’ve got the constant help of the New York police department who usually has an officer on the block for ready assistance.”

Good Friday teaches us that never ever can we claim that our God does not comprehend the troubles that we go through during life,” Dolan said, according to the New York Daily News.

“When, for instance, in the midst of mental anguish, emotional distress, deep anxiety, even depression, we think God distances?” Dolan asked. “No, think again.”

Larmparello had booked a flight to Italy that was set to take off at 5:20 p.m. Thursday, but Deputy Commissioner Miller offered no additional information about his plans there.

“I’m not going to get into that right now,” Miller said.

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