A church in Brooklyn's Park Slope was desecrated and robbed last week, with the thief taking away a century-old jeweled tabernacle worth $2 million.
NPR reported that the thief broke into the St. Augustine's Roman Catholic Church, renowned as Park Slope's "Notre Dame," between 6:30 p.m. Thursday and 4 p.m. Saturday, as per local police. Though the parish's pastor, Fr. Frank Tumino, suspects that the incident took place on Friday since he discovered the burglary on Saturday. The thief easily executed his plan since the church was closed for construction.
A $2 Million Church Heist
According to a press release of the Diocese of Brooklyn dated May 29, the New York City Police Department is investigating the incident. The diocese called the burglary "a brazen crime of disrespect and hate, which desecrated the most Holy Eucharist and the altar" of the church.
Initial investigation has shown that the thief cut through the protective metal casing of the tabernacle, which was built along with the church in 1890. The thief decapitated and destroyed the angels that adorned each side of the tabernacle. The thief then proceeded in taking the Holy Eucharist inside the tabernacle and threw it all over the altar.
The tabernacle, which The Jerusalem Post said is 18-karat gold, was restored in 1952 and 2000. The diocesan website describes the tabernacle as a "masterpiece and one of the most expensive tabernacles in the country, guarded by its own security system" being an "electronically operated burglar-proof safe." The tabernacle's artistic and historical value, the diocese stressed, makes it irreplaceable.
"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," Tumino said.
"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," he added.
In addition to the tabernacle, the thief also cut open the sacristy's safe, which was actually empty. The thief also beheaded an angel statue and stole its head along with all the videos of the security cameras.
Stolen Gold Tabernacle Is Priceless In Parishioners' Prayer Life
Tumino, in an interview with New York Daily News, recounted how he discovered the burglary. The parish priest said he noticed that the church's door was open before 4 p.m. on Saturday. He immediately walked inside and, as soon as he smelled steel shavings, he said his heart dropped right in the pit of his stomach.
Tumino told the media outlet that the Eucharist is so central and significant to the Catholic faith that it took a while for him to regain a sense of self to see where the Eucharist was. The parish priest found the ciborium, the container for the Eucharist, amidst the metal shavings.
More than the physical value of the stolen tabernacle, Tumino underscored its importance in the prayer life of parishioners. He also pointed out that people of the past gave the church the tabernacle because it was donated, making it highly prized.
The priest also recounted how horrified the police were in disbelief of what the burglar did to the church when they arrived and investigated every nook and corner of the church.
Tumino highlighted that there was no forced entry on the door except that the front door's lock was broken from the inside, making the priest and local police believe it is an inside job. However, the priest stressed it would be difficult to know who did it because no backup video was left from the security cameras to gather evidence.