Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
THE Roman Catholic Church’s St Andrew’s Parish in Kingsdale, Bulawayo, has been forced to suspend services after thieves stole sacred vessels used to conduct mass on Monday.
They stole ciboriums, which are considered the most important aspect of the catholic service. Ciboriums are goblet-shaped vessels for holding Eucharistic bread in Holy Communion.
The theft occurred just three weeks after armed robbers raided the same church and attacked its priest, forcing him to spend the night at the neighbouring Marianhill Institution, an organisation that houses Catholic priests.
Father Louis Chileshe, who heads the St Andrew’s Parish, said thieves ransacked his house, Parish Hall and the church, and stole vessels used to conduct mass.
“In the church we have instruments that we use for our church service called the mass. They stole all the chalices and ciboriums. These are the containers where we store sacred species and what we call the body and blood of Christ. They stole mass wine, candles and candle stands, among other things,” said Father Chileshe.
He said as a result of the theft, services would be suspended until the church has been cleansed.
“In the Catholic Church, for a parish to be considered operational, there is an act called consecration where the Bishop comes and blesses the place and declares it holy ground for worship.
And when an act like the one which has happened of individuals breaking into the church, not only to steal, but also to desecrate the sacredness of the church, a consecration service has to be conducted. So temporarily the parish will be closed to allow for consecration of the place.”
Father Chileshe said he was forced to abandon his church house after robbers raided it at the end of last year.
“This is the second incident in a space of three weeks. On December 30, 2021, three men broke into the house while I was asleep. They harassed me and demanded money and my personal property. When they saw that the money was not enough, they beat me up.
They took parish laptops, a parish computer, my personal computer and my iPad. They also took some groceries and kitchen utensils from the house. With each passing day we are still discovering the small things that are missing in the house,” said Father Chileshe.
“On Sunday, I left the house to go and sleep next door because I belong to the congregation called Marianhill Institution. After the first incident, I decided to spend most of my nights in the Marianhill community so I left this place around 9.30pm.
The following day I came back to the house at 5.55am and found the doors of the house, parish and church all broken and reported to the police.”
He said they discovered that various items had been stolen in his house, parish hall and the church.
The news crew observed that the church had started repairing some of the damaged property and had replaced locks at various buildings.
Bulawayo Archbishop Alex Thomas said the theft shows that the church is also vulnerable to criminal activities.
“I don’t know what they were looking for, but they ransacked the whole house and church. We don’t know what they were looking for because there were only church things.
“They are still compiling a list of things that were stolen as this is the second time the same church has been raided in three weeks,” said Archbishop Thomas.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said investigations into the matter are ongoing.
“The thieves got away with more than US$3 000 and R8 215 and we are investigating a case of unlawful entry and theft.
“Investigations are ongoing and we are appealing to members of the public who might have information that may lead to the arrest of the suspects to come forward.”
Article Source: The Chronicle