Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Audacious theft by burglury pros at archbishop's home nets Catholic treasures

While Archbishop John Nienstedt was in Rome, "irreplaceable" crosses and rings were taken from his quarters.

An overnight burglary at the St. Paul residence of new Archbishop John Nienstedt netted the thief or thieves the gem- and precious-metal-laden rings and crosses worn by bishops throughout the 150-year-plus history of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, a church official said Monday.

"These things are historically and reverentially irreplaceable," said Dennis McGrath, spokesman for the archdiocese. "They're beyond value."

Believed to be missing, as well, are rosaries and a small safe. "It's like a historical treasure trove, if you will," McGrath said.

The burglary came on a weekend that was set to be a glorious one for Nienstedt, who was in Rome for a welcoming ceremony featuring Pope Benedict.

According to St. Paul police, the break-in occurred at the residence at 226 Summit Av. between 1:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. Saturday. Whoever broke in climbed onto a first-floor roof and broke into a second-story window, police spokesman Peter Panos said.

About a week earlier, Nienstedt had set out for Rome with a group of about 100 church officials and worshipers, many of them acquaintances from his years as the bishop of the New Ulm Diocese, McGrath said.

On Sunday, they were witnesses to a ceremony in which Nienstedt received from the pope a pallium -- a garment presented to all archbishops. "It is an important event," McGrath said.

Along with Nienstedt's "former faithful from New Ulm," the archbishop then was to embark for Ulm, Germany, on a trip that had been delayed by his selection to his new post, McGrath said.

Early Monday, Panos, the police spokesman, said that it appeared that the stolen items might consist of a camera and personal jewelry, "but they're not sure," he added. But by afternoon, McGrath reported first the addition of the safe, then the rosaries and finally, after a church official reached Nienstedt overseas, the rings and pectoral crosses.

McGrath said there is no evidence that the burglary had political overtures against Nienstedt, whose orthodox style has been controversial with some Catholics in the archdiocese. The intruders were clearly bent on burglary, he said, adding that it appears that there were at least two people working in tandem and that they were familiar with the residence.

"These guys were pros," he said. "The glass they broke through is, like, three or four inches thick. They couldn't get through without a sledgehammer. They executed a well-thought-out plan. They knew exactly where to go in his bedroom."

Panos said that police, too, believe that more than one person might be involved. The weight of the safe alone, he said, suggests that teamwork was required.

McGrath, who said he did not know if the stolen items were insured, said he couldn't imagine someone wearing them. The crosses, for example, "are on a gold chain, very ornate," and drape over the chest, he said.

"I don't think 50 Cent would wear it," he said, referring to the rap star.

Looking back, McGrath said he could not think of another such incident in the archdiocese's history.

"It takes a lot of gall to rob an archbishop" across the street from the Cathedral of St. Paul, he said.


Anonymous said...

That is just despicable!!! You know it was an inside job--somebody "Catholic" who knew all those treasures were there and knew he was going to Rome for the pallium. All staff, present and past, should be thoroughly questioned. I hope the thieves get caught really soon. My condolences to your archdiocese!

Anonymous said...

This is how we welcome our new Archbishop to his new office? First those outrageous demonstrations for Gay Pride and now a personal violation of his property? Very distressing.
Naturally, the first question is; Are the vile and hateful demonstrations at SJOA and this crime related in any way? It might be premature to say. But it seems to provide some cover in any case.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering whether this was a hate crime as well. One thing's for sure, though, Archbishop Nienstedt is going to need our prayers. He's had to deal with a lot of crap lately, evenn though he's only been our archbishop for only two months.

Anonymous said...

Indeed it was an inside job... I think former residents should be investigated... ;)

Unknown said...

There is no question that there is a lot of anger out there. But I don't think that we should start accusing those who disagree with the Archbishop of a crime.

It just maybe have been someone looking for gold.

A month or so ago someone in New Mexico broke into a pickup and stole a case with a bishop's crosier in it. It was found in a park a few days later. They probably realized that that it wasn't as easy to hock as a camera or wrist watch.

Let's see what the police come up with.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Ray: You have a lot of "connections". I think it would be helpful in the recovery of these items if photos were posted of them: online, in parishes, in the Catholic Spirit etc. so the Faithful can be on the lookout for them. Some of, if not all, of these items may have been photographed at one time for insurance purposes or perhaps even historical photos of the items being worn may be available.

Better make it fast, time is of the essence.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Oh, and I'd seriously help in any recovery effort. I may even have to come out of blog hiatus for it! :-) That threat alone should be enough to cause the thieves to give up the loot! :-)

Anonymous said...

The Strib has since reported that the police now say they are not assuming it was an inside job, nor that it was necessarily executed by "pros".
Let's all pray that these evildoers are caught and the precious relics returned to their rightful owner.

Anonymous said...

Annunciation parish near Northfield was robbed recently: a chalice, sanctuary lamp, a number of other items--and, strangely, all the consecrated Hosts from the tabernacle--were taken. I wonder whether this happens much more often than we know.