Victoria cathedral offers $5,000 reward for recovery of stolen artifacts

A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the recovery of items stolen from Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria on the weekend.

Someone likely hid in the church until after the doors were locked Saturday night, then broke into a display case, using a saw.

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Among the items stolen are a gold chalice, silver chalice, antique Canadian coins, a small communion plate and a mote spoon — a spoon with holes historically used to strain tea leaves.

A steel frame that surrounded the display case was damaged.

“Then they sawed through the Plexiglas, which is probably a half-inch thick, so they put a lot of work into it,”  said Rev. Logan McMenamie, rector of Christ Church Cathedral. “But when they were doing that, the alarm went off.”

The alarm call alerted Victoria police to a theft at the cathedral just before 10 p.m. Officers arrived and were met by one of the church representatives, who said the building had been empty at the time of the break-in.
A search by police and a police dog didn’t find anyone.

The stolen items were originally gifts from the Church of England, McMenamie said.

“All the stuff we have here are gifts that were given at different times from the church in the U.K.,” he said. These gifts include a bishop’s chair, the rear doors and statues. “I think there was a sadness there [Sunday] within the congregation, a feeling of violation,” said McMenamie.

“We felt we were sharing something that was sacred and holy to us with the population as a whole, and somebody has taken advantage of that.”

There’s “very little value” to the items, McMenamie said. “The historical significance is for us as a community.”

He suspects the thief might try to pawn the items locally or sell them to antique shops.

“My fear is that they would try to melt them down for the value of the [metal],” McMenamie said.

He said the church is not interested in punishing the person who stole the items.

“If they come back, we’re open to working with the person. Even if the person is caught by police, we’re still open to looking at things like restorative justice and trying to bring healing and health out of this, not judgment,” said McMenamie, adding he has received phone calls of support from Nanaimo and Vancouver.

The theft will not change the church’s openness to the community, McMenamie said. But what might change is how the church displays its possessions.

“The cathedral is not going to be closed — we’re open every day and we want to maintain that openness. We don’t want more gates and more fences.”

Motion detectors or video surveillance may be installed in the nave, he said.

Anyone with information about the stolen items can reach Victoria police at 250-995-7654 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

asmart@timescolonist.com

With a file from Sandra McCulloch

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