Editor Emeritus - Ed Wilkinson

Neighborhood Shocked Over Racial Assault on Priest

An alleged racial incident in Marine Park last weekend has drawn the attention of the neighborhood because it involved a white parishioner and a black priest.

Father Uriroghene Okrokoto, (known in the parish as Father Melchizedek) a newly ordained priest of the Brooklyn Diocese who is assigned to Good Shepherd parish, went out for a breath of fresh air in the early morning hours when he was apparently subjected to some racially charged language. He was not wearing clerical garb.

A 25-year-old white man has been charged with yelling from a white van at the black priest at the corner of Ave. T and Ford St. Phrases such as, “What are you doing in my neighborhood,” “Go back to the projects,” and “I’m gonna split your head open,” came from the vehicle.

The priest replied, “If you have a problem with me, you should call the police.”

At the mention of the cops, the van sped off but police were able to retrieve a license plate number from surveillance cameras.

Surrendering to the police was Joseph Mattarelliano, a graduate of Catholic elementary and high schools in the area. He has been charged with a hate crime and brandishing a weapon – a baseball bat.

Racial prejudice has no place in our world. In spite of blatant race-baiting indents by charlatans who thrive on racial strife, racial relations in this city are good. People from all over the world live side by side. We ride the same subways and buses, wait on the same lines in the supermarket, and eat in the same restaurants.

Our church congregations are racially mixed and we preach a message of peace and brotherhood among all people.

This particular incident is not indicative of the people of Marine Park. Parishioners have welcomed Father Melchizedek and they were shocked at what happened.

In interviews with Currents’ reporter Tim Harfmann, parishioners expressed horror at what they were hearing.

“I was shocked to hear about it because I consider this a very diverse neighborhood and a very accepting neighborhood,” said Annette Hinners.

“I was amazed because I don’t know anybody who would talk like that,” explained Evelyn Sullivan.

Joanne Wright summed it up perfectly, “We are all very sorry, especially for Father Melchizedek. He’s very welcome here.”

Father Melchizedek says he has always felt welcomed in the community. “This is a very, very good community,” he said. “This came out of the blue.”

When asked what he hopes will be the resolution of this incident, he said, “I hope any form of racial discrimination stops and that there will be true dignity for the human person.

“I hope and pray for the conversion of the person who did this. I hope God brings His love to his heart.”

Father Melchizedek was born in Nigeria and came here 10 years ago with his family. They settled in Corona, where he was a member of Our Lady of Sorrows parish.

As The Tablet went to press, he was planning to meet with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office.

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