Footage has emerged of a woman being punched in the face just after completing a reading in church. The shocking attack took place at Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul in the US city of Philadelphia during Sunday's morning mass, which was being live-streamed.
The video shows her walking down from the altar before another woman punches her twice in the face. The victim was immediately tended to by church staff, though she did not require any medical attention. Rector and pastor of the church, Reverend Dennis Gill, said that clergy were quick to call the police following the assault.
"We immediately followed up on it off-camera and it's important for us to do that because people are at home and continuing to participate in Mass," Gill told WPVI. "Nonetheless, it was very upsetting. Parishioners attending in person were shocked, as were so many that watch the 11 a.m. Mass live-streaming online."
Police said that the woman is not yet in custody - she has reportedly been seen at the church before but is not a parishioner.
In a statement on the incident, the Archbishop of Philadelphia Nelson Perez said that such violent behaviour is "unacceptable at all times, especially within the confines of a church building and during the celebration of the Holy Mass".
He added: "I was saddened to learn of this incident and regret that it took place. The lector who was assaulted received immediate attention and assistance from Cathedral staff members off camera. She did not require medical attention and is doing well based on the reports I have received.
"The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is working in conjunction with police regarding the matter and will cooperate with them fully. Please be assured that there are safety and security plans in place for the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.
"We welcome all visitors and work to provide for their safety. Violence has no place in our world and every life is a precious gift from God. Please join me in praying for everyone involved in today's incident and for respect for our fellow brothers and sisters."