Unidentified vandals have desecrated a Catholic Church in India, taking away the holy tabernacle containing the consecrated host and throwing it around the compound.
Police have launched an investigation into the defacement at St. Thomas Church in Taherpur, West Bengal, which churchgoers discovered the break-in on the morning of July 10.
A senior police official at Ranaghat told the Indian Express, investigators lack clues as how the robbers managed to enter the church, as watchmen locked the doors before they left on the night before.
"It was an abortive attempt to steal valuables from the church," said the unnamed police official. Both the doors and the windows of the church were found to intact, he said, Indian Express reported.
Though a skylight had been broken, police have yet to establish that the robbers could have used that as an entry point because it was too high to scale down.
Father Satish Makhal, the assistant parish priest, said he and some parishioners discovered the robbery when they were about to prepare for morning prayers and they found the tabernacle was missing
"The raiders took out the tabernacle weighing about 8 to 10 kg and desecrated it," he said. "The statue of Jesus is preserved in it and it is very holy to us."
Makhal noted the latest incident against the Christian community took place five months after violent rape of a nun in Ranaghat. "We are really terrified," he added.
"After a short search they found the tabernacle in the church compound. It was broken open and the consecrated hosts were strewn around," the priest continued.
Krishnagar Bishop Joseph Suren Gomes told ucanews.com that church officials are confident the police will be able to assemble evidence and witnesses testimony to get an accurate picture as to what transpired.
Though criminal gangs have been known to operate in the area where the parish was, Gomes said institutions such as the church are rarely the targets.
He discounted the possibility of sectarian divide in the parish, which has existed in the area for 70 years.
"There is no history any communal tension in the aream," Bishop Gomes said.