NEW YORK (CBS 2) – Police are on the hunt for a thief who is clearly unfamiliar with the commandment “Thou shalt not steal.”
Thousands of dollars of religious items were stolen from a Catholic church in Queens. It was an unusual place for a heist, and even non-parishioners were upset about it, reports CBS 2’s John Slattery.
“It’s terrible,” Sheila Grasso said. “It’s like your parish is your second family, and like your home is being broken into.”
Five chalices, two ciboria – which hold the communion hosts – and other items were taken from an unlocked cabinet in the church sacristy at St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Elmhurst.
“It’s a big haul – over $5,000,” Monsignor John O’Brien said.
The burglary, discovered Sunday morning, most likely happened Saturday afternoon. It’s believed the theft took place while confessions were being heard and the sacristy doors were unlocked.
The pastor calls the taking of sacred vessels blasphemy.
“This is a poor parish with a million-dollar debt,” Msgr. O’Brien said. “We’re trying to get things going, and something like this happens.”
Grasso, from a parish in Woodside, heard of the burglary and decided to donate a chalice and a ciborium that were in her family to help ease the pain at St. Bartholomew.
“Right away, I said, ‘I know what to do with it,’ and thought, ‘they should put them to use here,’” Grasso said.
Despite the generous donations, parishioners at St. Bartholomew said they hope the originals can be located and returned.
A nearby funeral home also decided to help the church on Friday, donating another ciborium and three chalices.