Church left vandalised

2013-03-06 00:00

IS nothing sacred anymore?

This was the plaintive question from a Pietermaritzburg priest yesterday on discovering that thieves had broken into the Raisethorpe Catholic church and stolen historic and valuable ceremonial items.

Father Alfred Igwebuike, parish priest at Our Lady of Health church, opened the church for the daily 6 am lenten service at about 5.30 yesterday morning. On entering, he discovered the tabernacle doors wrenched open and stained glass scattered everywhere.

It appears that the thief or thieves had cut open the tabernacle doors with an angle grinder sometime on Monday night. They stole three ciboria, including one over 60 years old.

Igwebuike said the ciboria — used to hold consecrated or blessed communion wafers — were invaluable. One had been part of the church since before it was officially opened in 1946. So too were the tabernacle doors which, based on the material used and the craftsmanship, would be irreplaceable. However, what left Igwebuike feeling more devastated was the desecration and destruction wrought by the thief or thieves.

He said the stained glass window through which the intruders gained entry was smashed with such violence that glass shards had sprayed all over the church.

A memorial garden on the property was trashed and desecrated, with plaques pulled off the wall.

The chairperson of the parish council, Kelvin Peters, said he found it strange that the thieves had not taken much. “There were other items that would have fetched a price at pawn shops, but all they took were the ciboria and a surround-sound speaker,” he said.

Both Igwebuike and Peters were especially upset that the burglary had taken place during Lent, the most sacred period in the Christian calendar. It is a time of prayer and fasting in the build-up to Holy Week, when believers commemorate the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peters said this was the first time in 60 years that the church had had a major break-in. Previously there had been incidents of petty theft, where items such as gardening tools were stolen.

He appealed to anyone who comes across the ciboria to return them to the church. “No questions will be asked. We just want them back; they are part of our history,” Peters said.

Police spokesperson Joey Jeevan appealed to anyone with information to contact the Mountain Rise Police Station at 033 387 9600 or

033 387 9629.

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