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Burglars abandon plan to steal church's tabernacle

Published on: Friday, December 27, 2013

Kota Kinabalu: Burglars abandoned their plan to steal the St Augustine's Catholic Church's tabernacle, presumably because it was too heavy, early Thursday.

The tabernacle is where the bread, which symbolises the body of Christ, is kept, along with the chalice. It is a priceless item of the church. It is likely that the burglars were not aware that it does not contain money despite being ornately decorated.

They, however, managed to make away with six speakers, one laptop and two fans. The theft and damage were estimated at RM7,000, said the church's property and finance manager Pachelles Jonuat.

The caretaker of the church's ground said he only realised the church was burglarised at around 6am and immediately informed the church's Parish Council Chairman, Linus Tokuzip.

"We believe the thieves broke into the church between 4am and 6am. They cut the gate's wires before cutting off the main gate's padlock to let their vehicle in.

"They gained access into the building after breaking one of the stainless glass windows at the back of the church after failing to force open one of the side doors," said Tokuzip, adding that the door and frame had pry marks on them.

The thieves ransacked the sacristy (priest's room) and took a laptop stored there. They, however, did not take any of the liturgical items such as the silver chalices which were kept in the same room.

The tabernacle seemed to be the main target after it was found on the ground outside the church building next to pieces of two broken car plat number bearing QKB9030. It also has pry marks on its opening but the thieves failed to open the half tonne safe.

"Obviously, whoever these thieves were, they did not know what the tabernacle is and what it bears," added Tokuzip.

Frustrated by the failure, the thieves were determined to at least get something out of their 'labour' and ran away with some of the church's electrical items.

"Ironically, they took all the trouble to dismantle the six speakers at the church's nave but ignored the two speakers outside the church's building. Maybe they were in a hurry because they also did not take the keyboard which was just sitting there out in the open," said Tokuzip.

He said the incident was the fourth burglary case suffered by the church and the latest in a string of break-ins suffered by the parish after another church in Inobong was broken into not so long ago.

In that incident, the thieves also targeted the tabernacle but were furious when they found out the tabernacle did not contain any money and threw the Eucharistic bread on the ground.

"Father Alex Sipanul (the parish rector) decided he would not report this case to the police because he was disappointed after the police told him that it must be an inside job when he reported the Inobong incident," stressed Tokuzip.

No police report had been lodged. However, the police had been informed about the incident.