Threat no longer a concern, but events canceled at Newtown church evacuated today during Mass
NEWTOWN, CT. — Events at the St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown have been canceled for the rest of the day after someone called and threatened to kill people, a spokesman for the local diocese said this afternoon, though law enforcement officials said they are no longer worried about the threat.
Hundreds of parishioners attending Mass were evacuated from the building around 12:30 p.m. as state police in tactical gear arrived and surrounded the church’s educational center.
Six men in camouflage uniforms were seen exiting the church. Firefighters and paramedics also responded, but a state police official said he had “no idea” what was going on.
A woman who was evacuated during the service repeated, “I don’t understand. I don’t understand.”
Anna Wood of Oxford, Conn., one of the worshippers, said that halfway through the service the priest stopped and said, ‘‘Please, everybody leave. There is a threat.”
Shortly after 1 p.m., state police left the St. Rose Parish Education Center.
Brian Wallace, of the local archdiocese, said the threat was made by phone. There is no longer a perceived threat, he said, but events have been canceled for the rest of the day.
Shooter Adam Lanza, his mother and eight of the child victims attended St. Rose of Lima. It is a Roman Catholic Church with an adjacent school, which Lanza attended briefly.
The church held three Masses Sunday morning, all of which were overflowing with parishioners.
Wood said everyone left calmly but described a congregation on edge. One boy, about 9, left with his mother.
‘‘He asked his mom, ‘Mom, why are we leaving?,’’ Wood recalled. ‘‘The mom couldn’t answer. She just started crying.’’The Associated Press contributed to this report. Martine Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @martinepowers.