The Bishop of St Catharines, Ontario is pleading for thieves to return the consecrated Hosts after the tabernacle was stolen from the St Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral on Tuesday.
Bishop Gerard Bergie of St Catharines pleaded for the two people who took the tabernacle to return it, along with its contents, in an interview Tuesday afternoon with Canadian station NewsTalk 610 CKTB.
“The tabernacle can be replaced. It’s the contents (…) that is what is so precious to us. That’s what’s irreplaceable,” said Bergie, adding that he hopes that no harm is done to the Blessed Sacrament.
He hopes that the person or persons who took the tabernacle “realize it’s not of any monetary value, and be able to return it to us.”
“No questions asked, if they return it,” he said.
The tabernacle is made of steel, but has two bronze-colored doors, said the bishop. Bergie suspected that perhaps the thieves thought the tabernacle was made of gold, or perhaps had a more nefarious intent with stealing the hosts.
“Who knows what goes through the minds of these people,” he said.
Video footage captured two people, believed to be a man and a woman, breaking into the cathedral at approximately 4:30 a.m. Sept. 8. As it was dark, the footage is “kind of grainy” and it has been difficult to determine a clear image of the suspects, he said.
Many people have taken to loitering near the cathedral in recent months, Bergie explained.
“Even yesterday, the man that’s our caretaker said he noticed two fellas that were staying around all day, outside sleeping and eating,” he said. “I don’t know if they’re involved, it’s hard to tell,” said Bergie.
Fr Donald Lizzotti, rector of the cathedral, told CNA that he believed the thieves had previously cased the cathedral to determine how to steal the tabernacle.
“And they came back later and actually pried the cover, which is over the old metal tabernacle,” he said. “They pried that off and put it on the floor. They took brass doors off of that,” and then finally took the entire tabernacle off of the altar.
He told CNA that the police were unable to find fingerprints and they believe the thieves had wiped the scene clean.
Lizzotti said that the diocese had contacted scrap yards in the area and informed them about the theft, and that they know what to look for.
St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral was hit by numerous instances of theft and vandalism during its renovations in 2019, including the theft of bronze and copper lampposts almost exactly one year ago.
Lizzotti told CNA that he does not think the theft of the tabernacle is related to the Sept. 10, 2019 theft, as the perpetrator was arrested after attempting to sell the metal to a scrapyard. That theft was what prompted the cathedral to install numerous security cameras inside and outside the building.
Extra steps have now been taken to ensure there are no more break-ins.
“We’ve now secured the one doorway that they got into,” said Lizzotti. “We’ve actually made it completely secure by putting crossbars across the two doors. So they can’t pry the doors unless they rip the wood completely out.”