NEW YORK (NBC) – A wailing newborn baby was found with his umbilical cord attached inside a nativity scene at a Queens church, police say.
The baby was discovered by a maintenance worker at the Holy Child Jesus Catholic Church in Richmond Hill Monday at about noon, according to the New York Police Department.
The Rev. Christopher Ryan Heanue told NBC 4 New York the worker was cleaning inside the church when he heard the baby crying inside the nativity scene, which had been set up earlier than usual this year.
“The secretary burst in and said, ‘Father, there’s an emergency in the church, you have to come,'” Heanue said.
Inside Baby Jesus’ spot in the manger was a newborn, a few hours old at most, Heanue estimated. Bishop Octavio Cisnero, also there, couldn’t believe his eyes.
“There was a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, in a towel,” Cisnero told NBC New York. “The umbilical cord was still hanging from the baby.”
EMTs checked out the baby, and he appeared to be healthy.
Heanue said surveillance video captured a woman entering the church about 20 minutes before the baby was found.
“A woman did come into the church with some bag, left the church and the bag was sort of dangling in the wind,” he said.
It’s not clear who the woman is from the video, he said, but police are investigating.
The church is considered a Safe Haven under state law, which allows a parent to safely leave a newborn baby up to 30 days of age anonymously and without fear of prosecution at suitable locations, like at hospitals, firehouses or police stations. But the law also requires the child to be left with an appropriate person or for someone to be contacted right away.
It’s not clear if the woman will face charges if she’s identified.
Heanue said the parish has taken a special interest in the baby and some members have expressed an interest in adopting.
Cisneros said “it means that people care, and they’re willing to come in and help and give this new life a future.”
“This child, we believe, is a gift, almost, to this parish,” said Heanue.