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A Roman Catholic church in Brooklyn, New York, was desecrated on Friday, and its most precious and sacred possession was stolen.
St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in Park Slope, Brooklyn is investigating the theft and vandalism of its tabernacle – an antique 18-karat gold artwork made in the 19th century and used to house the Eucharist.
The tabernacle is kept inside a thick metal case when unguarded, which burglars break through. The tabernacle itself is estimated at around $2 million.
“The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn announces that the New York City Police Department is investigating a shameful crime of disrespect and hate, which desecrated the Most Holy Eucharist and altar at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church. , located at 116 6th Avenue in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn,” the Diocese of Brooklyn said in a press release.
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“The burglar broke through a protective metal casing and made off with the Tabernacle, which dates back to the construction of the church in the late 1800s,” the diocese explained. “This holy sacramental receptacle is irreplaceable because of its historical and artistic value.”
The theft does not appear to be motivated solely by material gain, as the culprits also decapitated two angel statues on either side of the altar, according to local output Fox 5.
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The vandals apparently did not steal the Eucharist, but seem to have removed it and scattered the sacrament randomly on the altar. Theft of the Eucharist is a serious concern for Catholic churches – the sacrament has always been a target of theft and subsequent desecration by anti-Catholic or anti-Christian groups.
“It is devastating, because the Tabernacle is the center of our church outside of worship, containing the Body of Christ, the Eucharist, which is delivered to the sick and confined to the house,” said Father Frank Tumino, pastor of St. Augustine, in a statement.
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“Knowing that a burglar has entered the most sacred space of our beautiful church and taken great pains to cut into a security system is a heinous act of disrespect,” he added.
The theft and vandalism are believed to have taken place on Friday, but were not discovered by Tumino until the following day.
The sacristy – a room behind the altar where the clergy prepare to celebrate mass – was also raided, with an open safe. There was nothing inside.
Anyone who may have information that could help the investigation or identify those responsible is asked to call the New York Police Department at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).