PHILADELPHIA (OSV News) — A Philadelphia pastor told OSV News he does not believe an unexploded pipe bomb found some 100 yards from his church was a direct threat to his parishioners.
On Feb. 19, police removed an 18-inch capped PVC device found along railroad tracks behind St. Dominic Church in Philadelphia’s Holmesburg section. The object, discovered by a passerby close to 2 p.m., was removed by the Philadelphia Police Department’s bomb squad via a private service road that cuts through the parish’s extensive grounds, which include a large cemetery.
Following the removal operation, which required the brief closure of surrounding streets, police knocked on the door of the rectory to advise Father Edward T. Kearns, pastor of St. Dominic Parish. “I was surprised,” Father Kearns told OSV News. “I was watching a golf match. They were very quiet when they came in to pick it up and take it away.”
Given the distance of the object from the parish church and buildings, Father Kearns said he did not believe St. Dominic’s structures, parishioners or school students were the intended targets.
“I don’t think it was in connection to us,” said Father Kearns. “It was behind us, not on our property, (but) on the other side of the railroad tracks, on Conrail’s property. I know the cops, and I spoke to them directly. It was 100 yards from my church. It’s a big cemetery and I have fencing around it. The bomb was found another 20 feet from my fence.”
He added that police advised him the device “wasn’t able to be exploded.”
“It was what they call a dud. Thank God,” he said.
The area where the pipe bomb was found, however, is not secure. The potential threat to the Philadelphia freight line comes amid the U.S. still grappling with the catastrophic impact of a Feb. 3 freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
Father Kearns told OSV News that “homeless people,” as well as students from nearby Father Judge Catholic High School, have often cut through St. Dominic property to the tracks, passing through “an opening” in the rear fence.
“We used to have people living down there on the tracks,” said Father Kearns. “They would come through to get to their tents, and on the other side of the tracks, there were more people (living) in the woods.”
Father Kearns was surprised the incident garnered national attention, but he suggested the shocking news of Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell’s murder Feb. 19 had become “kind of mixed up” with the incident at St. Dominic.
At the same time, Father Kearns told OSV News he was thankful the incident did not occur when parish schoolchildren were present. “I worry more about them,” he said.
Father Kearns said he plans to meet with his parish staff to discuss possible security measures. “I don’t think (anyone) is out to get us,” Father Kearns said. “But you never know these days. There’s so much anger in the world.”