Some Items Stolen from South Africa’s Oldest Cathedral Recovered

The iconic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Flight into Egypt, Cape Town where there was robbery and vandalism on April 18, 2020.
Credit: Public Domain

Some of the items stolen from Our Lady of the Flight into Egypt Cathedral of Cape Town Archdiocese, South Africa’s oldest Cathedral, have been positively identified and recovered, the Cathedral Administrator has confirmed.

The 169-year-old church, also known as St. Mary’s Cathedral, was desecrated on April 18, the perpetrators making away with sacred items, among them a ciborium, a pyx, four silver candelabras, a gold plated chalice, and two gold plated patens as well as some money from the votive candles box.

The recovered items were positively identified on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, May 13 at the evidence room of Central Police Station in Cape Town, the Cathedral Administrator, Fr. Rohan Smuts has disclosed in a statement dated Thursday, May 14.

“We (Fr. Rohan and Fr. Luigi) were presented with two silver candelabra, that were situated next to the tabernacle, and four cardboard boxes of various metals,” Fr. Rohan stated in the two-page message and continued, “Upon inspection we discovered a further two silver candelabra in pieces as well as four gold-plated candelabra also in pieces.”

Also recovered was a Ciborium that was in the tabernacle, a chalice and paten set, a paten dish and the large sanctuary lamp, Fr. Rohan has noted in the statement published on the Cathedral’s Parish Facebook Page.

According to the South African Cleric, all the recovered items “including the tabernacle that was broken into various pieces, will need to be fixed and restored by various artisans.”

“The microphones as well as the Pyx and Lunette that was in the Tabernacle have not been recovered.,” he added.

In the May 14 statement seen by ACI Africa, Fr. Rohan explains that the recovery of the stolen items follows a call he received from a Protestant Minister who had been approached by a person who intended to sell the items to him; the Minister was handing out food parcels in Khayelitsha, a partially-informal township in Western Cape.

“When he (Protestant Minister) looked, he recognized that they were items stolen from the Cathedral a few days earlier and told the young man so. The young man abandoned his loot and ran away leaving the Minister with the items,” the Cathedral Administrator recounted in his statement.

He added in reference to the Protestant Pastor, “The Minister insisted that I come to Mew Way, Khayelitsha, and collect these items since he did not want to have them in his house. I indicated that since it was an active police case, the investigating officer would be contacting him to arrange for the collection of the stolen items and to take his statement.”

The Protestant Minister eventually took the items to the police station on April 23.

Acknowledging the concerns of the faithful, Fr. Rohan has stated, “We would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to the countless individuals who reached out to us by way of emails, telephone calls and messages offering their prayers and financial support.”

“When news of the recovery of the stolen items were beginning to make the rounds, someone aptly said, ‘this is what happens when you have a praying community,’” he recalled.

Considered the mother church to all Catholics in Southern Africa, the Cathedral was consecrated on the eve of the Feast of Our Lady of the Flight into Egypt on April 28, 1851. It is located in Cape Town city, directly opposite the Parliament Houses.

ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]