Chalice stolen before Sunday morning Mass in Selma

FRESNO, Calif.

Pieces of shattered stained glass still lay on the ground at St. Joseph's Catholic church in Selma, the scene of a burglary over the weekend. Church custodian Jose Martinez received a call from the pastor Sunday morning to come and cover the broken window where thieves made their way in and took off with a sacred metallic chalice.

"The chalice is the main thing the priest uses to say his church services and it's very important for us to have. You can't say mass without it," said parishioner Ruben Espino.

Catholics consider the chalice sacred because it holds the bread used for holy communion. Aside from its symbolic significance, the chalice is valued at $1,400.

"This is a serious problem and sad because the church should be respected," said Martinez.

This wasn't the first time someone has broken into the church. In recent months, burglars have stolen the church speakers, a lawnmower and bronze plaques located outside the church hall, all on separate occasions.

"I think we kind of see that as a sacred area and when somebody would stoop to the lowness of stealing from a church, which is a house of worship, I think it disturbs everybody," said Selma's interim police chief, Myron Dyck.

Selma PD is investigating the burglary. Officers say they've seen a rash of stolen metals in the area. "I think as we see in other areas, the price of metal, there was some gold platting and it's taking things of value that they may be able to sell either at a recycling center or have some other place that they might sell this for quick cash," said Dyck.

Police suspect the thieves may have been members of the church since they knew where the chalice was located. Meanwhile, church leaders say they will be more vigilant and pray this doesn't happen again.

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