Priceless Relics Stolen from Church

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CLEVELAND -- Priceless relics are missing from a local church, including items that are more than 120 years old.

Sometime Wednesday, thieves broke into St. Albans Episcopal Church on Euclid Heights Boulevard in Cleveland Heights.

According to church business manager and lay preacher Mark Webster, they came in through a downstairs window and broke into two offices behind the sanctuary.

"They took a fire extinguisher and used it as a sledgehammer and literally just smashed the lock," said Webster.

But the thieves did find other items of silver, including pitchers, baptismal shelves and chalices used for communion. One of the chalices was 120 years old, donated by a Russian Orthodox church.

"I'm very upset because these are holy and they're just things, but they're sacred things," said Margaret Martin, who has been a church member for 33 years.

St. Albans is the oldest congregation in Cleveland Heights, established in 1892 on Murray Hill. The building was moved to its present location five years later.

On June 1, 1989, an arsonist set fire to the church, destroying it.

"The one chalice and the paten, which is the plate that goes with it that holds the bread during the communion service actually had survived the fire," said Webster.

Webster fears the thieves may have used the sacred, religious items from scrap.

"It was given by someone in memory of someone," he said.

"The thought of it being melted down for scrap metal, it's terrible. I mean, this is the blood of Jesus that's been in this cup for many, many years," said Martin.

"My grandson was baptized here three weeks ago and one of those baptismal shelves was used in that service. It was used for all of my grandchildren and now it's gone and it will never be used again and that's a shame," said an emotional Webster.

Cleveland Heights police say they are checking area scrap yards, but so far, they have made no arrests.

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