Tabernacle Desecrated During South African Cathedral Robbery

In addition to the robbery and damage, and more concerning to the Church, the vandalism included Eucharistic desecration.

Cathedral of St. Mary in Cape Town, South Africa.
Cathedral of St. Mary in Cape Town, South Africa. (photo: Facebook/St. Marys. )

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — The cathedral of the Archdiocese of Cape Town, South Africa, was vandalized on Saturday and the tabernacle desecrated. In a statement on the incident, issued on Sunday, an auxiliary bishop of the diocese requested prayers from the faithful and donations to help feed the poor of Cape Town. 

“It is with great sadness and alarm that we confirm the news that has been doing the rounds on Social Media that the Cathedral has been vandalized,” said a message from Bishop Sylvester David, OMI, published Sunday, April 19. David is an auxiliary bishop of the Cape Town archdiocese. 

Bishop David said that various sacred objects had been stolen in the course of the break-in including “a ciborium, a pyx, four silver candelabra, a gold plated chalice, and two gold plated patens.” Money was also taken from the votive offering box, he said.

In addition to the robbery and damage, and more concerning to the Church, the vandalism included Eucharistic desecration.

“The consecrated hosts from the ciborium have been left inside the tabernacle but the host from the pyx has been removed,” said Bishop David. “There has been desecration.” 

The vandalism of St. Mary’s Cathedral occurred sometime of the early hours of Saturday, April 18. The damage was reported to the Cape Town Central Police when it was discovered the following day by the cathedral caretaker. 

South African media reported that in addition to the thefts, vandals ripped the tabernacle door off the hinges, and tore up carpets. Media reports estimated that the damage to the cathedral was more than R100,000, approximately $5,400 USD. 

This was the second time the cathedral has been targeted for a break-in.

Bishop David acknowledged that while the archdiocese was itself the victim of a crime, the acts of vandalism and desecration meant that “reparation has to be done,” and that each parish church of the archdiocese would be sent special prayers to offer.

“We request that all the faithful in the Archdiocese to join with the Cathedral parishioners and to engaged in the prayer which will be sent out to the Parish priests for distribution. It is important that the entire local Church engage in this as the Cathedral is the Mother church,” he said. “This prayer does not replace other daily prayers but supplements them.”

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, the Archdiocese of Cape Town suspended the public celebration of Mass on March 17.

Additionally, Bishop David requested that those who are able make a donation to the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s account in order to provide food for the poor. 

“We wish to thank you for the many expressions of the faith especially during this difficult time of the shutdown and wish you a meaningful Easter season,” he said. 

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The $5,000 paid to the church for the filming of the video will be donated to Bridge to Life, a pro-life pregnancy center in College Point, New York. Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello said that he was not present for filming but added that he removed the Blessed Sacrament from the church prior to shooting.