A Roman Catholic church in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, New York, was desecrated over the weekend when its antique tabernacle was cut out of its metal casing, its consecrated hosts scattered indiscriminately about the altar, and the angel statues that flanked it beheaded.

The Diocese of Brooklyn called the desecration of St. Augustine Church “a brazen crime of disrespect and hate.”

A press release from the diocese said police are conducting an investigation and described the desecration:

The burglar cut through a metal protective casing and made off with the Tabernacle, which dates back to when the church was built in the late 1800s. This holy sacramental receptacle is irreplaceable due to its historical and artistic value. The angels which flanked the Tabernacle were decapitated and destroyed, and the Holy Eucharist housed inside the Tabernacle was thrown all over the altar.

“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 Father Frank Tumino, pastor of St. Augustine. “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 18-karat gold jeweled tabernacle is believed to be worth more than $2 million.

According to a report at Fox5NY, police said thieves broke into the church between 6:30 p.m. Thursday and 4:00 p.m. Saturday and aggressively cut open an altar and stole the tabernacle containing the sacramental bread, which as the Catholic faith teaches, is the body of Jesus Christ.

The news report added:

It’s described as a “masterpiece and one of the most expensive tabernacles in the country, guarded by its own security system,” which involves an “electronically operated burglar-proof safe” and one-inch thick steel plates that “completely enclose the tabernacle.”

The church had been closed for construction and camera recordings from St. Augustine’s security system were also stolen, Tumino said. A safe located in the sacristy, the room in which the priests vest and prepare to celebrate Mass, was also found cut open, but nothing was inside it, the news report said.

Constructed in 1888, the Gothic Revival, High Victorian church was acclaimed by The New York Times after its dedication as “Brooklyn’s Finest Church,” states a fact sheet about the history of St. Augustine’s on the church’s website.

CBS News reported parishioners expressed disbelief and horror at the desecration.

“This is such a shock,” Sharon Dawson said. “It’s such an act of evil.”

“It had to be someone who knew something inside,” parishioner David Flowers said.

Anyone with information in regard to this incident may contact NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the CrimeStoppers website or on Twitter @NYPDTips.

Police said all calls will be kept confidential.

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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “St. Augustine Church” by Beyond My Ken. CC BY-SA 1.0.