St. Augustine Church in Park Slope was robbed of their tabernacle late Thursday night.
A tabernacle is an ornate encasing that holds the consecrated eucharist, which in the Catholic religion represents the literal body of christ.
The church along 6th Avenue was broken into on Friday evening according to police. The surrounding architecture was destroyed as well. The angels surrounding the tabernacle were decapitated and the eucharist was strewn across the room.
Cops say the 18 karat gold tabernacle decorated with jewels is approximately worth $2 million. But to the parishioners, a lot more was stolen.
Diane Montemarano, 68, has attended the parish for 39 years. Her father, born in 1918, was an altar boy at the church in his youth.
“I always loved coming here because, you know, he was an altar boy, and he grew up in this parish. So, personally, it’s like, a relic of my dad was taken,” Montemarano said in an interview.
The stolen tabernacle dates back to the 1890s, from when the church was built, and is described as irreplaceable by the church due to its historical and artistic significance. Burglars cut through a steel encasing with power tools. Father Tumino said that when he walked in Saturday morning he saw the door was ajar. After he walked in and saw the destruction, he could still smell the metal shavings from the tools used to break through.
Tumino also stated that the DVR that recorded the security footage within the church was stolen as well. The Father said that the parish is working with police to see if neighboring schools or businesses caught any footage of the suspects.
Tumino also speculated that due to the construction in the neighborhood, the burglars were able to break through the steel encasing without raising suspicion.
Tumino shot down the idea of an inside job at a Sunday morning press conference.
“I know it’s easy for people to say it was an inside job. But the reality is, these are also very public buildings. And so even online, there’s a history of this church,” Tumino said. “And even the history of the church does say that there is a tabernacle and that information is accessible. And because churches are available for weddings and funerals and for mass, people do come in and out.”
“This was a place where you come to gather yourself things are going wrong. You can come here and calm down and sort of get a second boost so to speak,” Michael Okebey, 58, who has been attending services at St. Augustine’s for 35 years, said. “I feel like somebody has interrupted my relationship with God in some way.
After being asked about how he felt about the crime, knowing that the approximate value of the tabernacle is $2 million, Okebey got more stern.
“Now i’m really angry,” he said, explaining that the church is currently raising funds for other projects and that this would put them further behind.