Disappointment and forgiveness: Church reacts to theft and vandalism

Photo: Video by kgun9.com

Disappointment and forgiveness: Church reacts to theft and vandalism

CREATED Aug. 19, 2012

Reporter: Craig Smith

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Parishioners came to Sunday mass at St. Augustine Cathedral to learn that thieves had taken something very personal to them: a part of their sanctuary.

You might think a theft from a church would leave the congregation fighting mad.  We found a sprit of disappointment--but also forgiveness.

The church is meant to be a place where people find comfort, but a thief or thieves went to the Cathedral of Saint Augustine to find something else: metal they could sell.

Congreation member Cynthia Burham said, "It's a shock, because it's a sanctuary.  You'd think people would have some respect for religion; some respect for certain elements of authority."
Some handsome old door handles on an inside door to the church are not on their way to a scrap dealer for a paltry few dollars but they are an example of what was lost.
Thieves stole eight other handles on the outside; replacement handles there now are sad substitutes for the handles that opened doors to weddings, funerals and almost 85 years in the life of the church.

Father Gonzalo Villegas says: "All that is gone so, again in the history of this beautiful church, the Cathedral, where people, a lot of people who received the sacraments here, they love to come here to be here for the services and to see this, it just breaks their hearts.
But despite the heartbreak, there's forgiveness.

Congregation member Nicole Cyphers says: "I know that there's probably a lot of people in the church who are praying for the well being of whoever found it necessary to do this, probably I guess, to just get by."
Thieves also cut out a large metal plumbing device called a backflow preventer and released a flood of water in the process.
Though the Cathedral is such a grand church, the Diocese says it's a poor congregation that will struggle to replace the stolen items.  They're still trying to recover from the theft of six air conditioners from another one of the parish buildings.