Security alarms were being fitted at the Cospicua parish church yesterday after thieves broke in and stole about €30,000 in gold and other valuables over the weekend.
Parish priest Anton Cassar told the Times of Malta he could hardly believe the theft had happened at the place of worship.
“They stole a lot of gold and other valuables that are difficult, and in some cases impossible, to replace,” he said.
Among the items stolen were a diamond-studded necklace which adorned a holy painting depicting the Immaculate Conception and gold objects used in the celebration of Mass.
Police investigators believe the thieves entered the church by scaling the scaffolding being used to restore the facade
The painting was just recently restored and valued at approximately €20,000.
Fr Cassar said he was deeply saddened by the loss of his gold chalice, as well as those of other priests at the parish. His gold chalice was given to him by his parents when he was ordained.
“That is of sentimental value that you simply cannot begin to quantify,” he remarked.
Fr Cassar noted that no money had been stolen from the donation boxes inside the church, as some media had reported.
Police investigators believe the thieves entered the church by scaling the scaffolding being used to restore the facade.
A door appeared to have been forced open, and it is believed the theft occurred overnight Friday.
Sources close to the investigators said evidence suggested that the intruders had studied the church before breaking in. “They seemed to know what to look for,” the sources said.
Investigators, they added, could seek the help of parishioners to establish whether any unfamiliar attendees had been to Mass in recent weeks.
The sources said the theft could have been even more audacious, though at this stage, it was not possible to establish if anything had disrupted the thieves’ plans.
They said suction cups were discovered on the glass where the statue of the Immaculate Conception, made mostly of silver, is kept. Luckily, the statue was untouched.
This is not the first theft from the Cospicua church. In the 1970s, a number of precious items were stolen during a break-in. They were never found. Thieves also raided the church in the 1830s, when objects used in the celebration of Mass were stolen.