The most sacred part of a Catholic church was torn off the altar of a Brooklyn house of worship and stolen this weekend in a shocking, unholy act that appalled the faithful across the borough.
Burglars cut out a more than a century-old tabernacle — which houses the Holy Eucharist, the sacramental representation of Jesus Christ — from the St. Augustine Church located at 116 6th Ave. in Park Slope.
The Associated Press reported that the break-in is believed to have occurred sometime between 6:30 p.m. on May 26 and 4 p.m. Saturday, May 28, while the church was closed for construction.
Father Frank Tumino, the pastor of St. Augustine-St. Francis Xavier Parish, discovered the damaged altar and noted that the stolen tabernacle — valued at an estimated $2 million, but priceless to a church community — was not the only act of desecration committed by the suspects responsible.
Along with cutting the tabernacle away from its protective metal casing, the perpetrators also decapitated and damaged a litany of angels flanking the holy chamber. Additionally, the communion contained within the tabernacle had been dumped out and strewn all over the altar.
It proved, in Tumino’s eyes, that the crime was not merely an act of theft.
“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,” said Tumino. “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.”
The crime was reported to the 78th Precinct. Through an investigation, police determined that it’s likely the suspect(s) responsible got into the church through a basement entry.
Officers and church officials also discovered that a safe within the sacristy — a room within the church where priests and officials prepare for worship services — had also been breached, but nothing was located within it.
Police sources said on Sunday that no arrests had been made in the case. Though the Diocese of Brooklyn, in a press release, described the burglary as “a brazen crime of disrespect and hate,” a police source said Sunday that the incident is not being officially investigated as a hate crime.
The tabernacle itself dates back to the late 1800s, when St. Augustine Church was built. The gold-plated, ornate chamber — almost looking like a church itself — features crosses at the top and on the front door, as well as depictions of cherubim and doves.
Anyone with information regarding the burglary can call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (for Spanish, dial 888-57-PISTA). You can also submit tips online at crimestoppers.nypdonline.org, or on Twitter @NYPDTips. All calls and messages are kept confidential.