Congregations that were sparse before the pandemic have gotten even thinner since it started. Tight budgets continue to shrink, priests are tending to multiple congregations and tight budgets mean security that’s too loose.
From The New York Times:
Deflated, Father Frank Tumino stepped into the pulpit at St. Francis Xavier Church in Brooklyn on Tuesday morning. Six blocks away, St. Augustine’s, the other church where he serves as pastor, was closed and cordoned off with police tape. At its center was a literal and figurative hole.
“This is just one more blow,” Father Tumino said after presiding over Mass. He was referring to the theft of St. Augustine’s tabernacle, a $2 million gold treasure that was separated from its 19th-century foundation last week with a power saw before presumably vanishing into the murky underground of stolen artifacts.
The ornate tabernacle box that held the eucharist — the consecrated wafers that the faithful believe embody Jesus Christ — disappeared from the Park Slope church’s sanctuary sometime between last Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon, the police said.
The church, which was under construction at the time, had security cameras, but they were not working, the police said. Regardless, Father Tumino said, whoever stole the tabernacle thought to grab the digital recorder on which the videos would have been stored.
For the Brooklyn diocese, the burglary was just the latest piece of bad news, Father Tumino said. Congregations that were sparse before the pandemic have gotten even thinner since it started. Tight budgets continue to shrink, he said, priests are tending to multiple congregations and tight budgets mean security that’s too loose.
“Understand: These parishes have been decimated,” Father Tumino said.
“These parishes need between $10 million and $15 million worth of work,” he added. “I’ve been entrusted with doing that, and there is not that money available, so you have to choose what you can pick and do now.”
… The police said the tabernacle was pure gold, but a church program from 2013 said it was sterling silver and plated in 18-karat gold. Both placed the tabernacle’s value in the seven figures; the police estimated it to be around $2 million.
The piece was insured, a diocese spokeswoman said, although it was unclear by whom and for how much.
The significance of the tabernacle goes beyond monetary value or even Catholic faith — the vessel is a Brooklyn relic in its own right, a bejeweled ghost of an era when Park Slope was populated by German and Irish immigrants, many of them Catholics.
… Whoever took the St. Augustine’s tabernacle also tossed the eucharist across the altar, and decapitated a statue of an angel, the diocese said. For those who adhere to the Catholic faith, the strewing about of the eucharist was as shocking as the burglary of its receptacle, a diocese spokeswoman said.