An 18-carat gold, jewel-encrusted tabernacle valued at 2 million US dollars has been stolen from a Catholic Church in a brazen burglary in New York City.
St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church is known as the “Notre Dame” of Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighbourhood. It was closed for construction at the time the theft took place – sometime between 6:30 pm Thursday and 4pm Saturday late last week.
The thief/thieves cut through a metal protective casing to get to the tabernacle – a box containing Holy Communion items. The tabernacle was built in 1895 for the church’s opening and restored in 1952, and again in 2000. While it is valued at $2 million, the Diocese of Brooklyn says its historical and artistic value makes it irreplaceable.
A guidebook on the church’s website describes the piece as a “masterpiece and one of the most expensive tabernacles in the country, guarded by its own security system” – including an “electronically operated burglar-proof safe” and one-inch thick steel plates that “completely enclose the tabernacle.”
The church says that camera recordings from the church’s security system were also stolen and angel statues flanking the tabernacle were decapitated and destroyed. Bread that had been consecrated as the body of Christ for Holy Eucharist was taken from the tabernacle and thrown on the altar. And a safe in the sacristy, where priests prepare for Mass, was cut open but nothing was inside.
The Diocese of Brooklyn has described it as “a brazen crime of disrespect and hate.”
“This is devastating, as the Tabernacle is the central focus of our church outside of worship, holding the Body of Christ, the Eucharist, which is delivered to the sick and homebound,” Rev. Frank Tumino, the pastor of St. Augustine said in a statement issued by the diocese.
“To know that a burglar entered the most sacred space of our beautiful Church and took great pains to cut into a security system is a heinous act of disrespect,” Tumino said.