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Stolen chalices returned to church

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St. John the Baptist Catholic Church at 506 South Lincoln Avenue. Two chalices that were stolen in a recent burglary of the church were returned by an anonymous person last week. Police said they cannot offer any new information on the case, but the investigation into the incident is ongoing. (File Photo)

A pair of chalices recently stolen from St. John the Baptist Catholic Church were returned last Tuesday.

Father Eduardo Espinosa and Deacon Ernesto Martinez, both of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, said Sunday that the brass gold-coated chalices­ that play a central role in ceremonies during Catholic mass were returned, anonymously, Aug. 7.

Espinosa and Martinez said they are glad to have the chalices back.

“It makes me feel better that they are not being used for other reasons, that they are back safely where they should be, where they belong and will be used according to what they are supposed to be used for,” Martinez said.

The chalices, along with two gallons of wine, a paten plate, an electronic receiver and a key to the tabernacle­ — the cabinet where the chalices and eucharists are kept — were stolen by intruders who broke into the church during the late night hours of July 30 or early morning of July 31, according to an investigative and incident report by the police.

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Espinosa and Martinez said no other items stolen had been returned as of Sunday morning.

Martinez said video footage from security cameras in and around the church show three individuals emerging from the chapel with the stolen items, and then driving away in a truck.

He added that the three intruders can be seen clearly in the video.

“You can plainly see them and the truck also,” Martinez said. He added that police have a copy of the surveillance footage.

Roswell Police Department Public Information Officer Todd Wildermuth said in an email Monday there are no new developments he could offer, but that the case remains under investigation.

Martinez said he discovered someone had broken into the church at about 8 a.m. on July 31 when he arrived at work. When he saw a door had been damaged, he went into the church to account for everything. Aside from the items stolen, he said a bag of wafers that had not been consecrated were left on the floor.

Martinez added that a few burns were discovered on some areas of the carpet in the chapel and some matches were found, prompting him to call both the police and the fire marshals.

The burglars also tried to break into two other rooms but without success, he said.

Espinosa said that in the aftermath of the break-in, many in his parish were “sad and concerned.”

“They are sad because of course they know this is a holy place,” he said.

The burglary represents the third time in three years St. John’s has been broken into, Espinosa said.

Espinosa, whose parish is heavily Hispanic, said he does not think that the break-in was motivated by hatred towards Hispanics or Catholics, and that it was likely just theft in a place that the intruders could get access to.

Other non-Catholic churches within Roswell have also been broken into, including one where a great deal of electronic equipment was stolen, he continued.

Espinosa said he hopes that the intruders will examine their conscience, repent and find God.

Martinez added that after the most recent break-in, he and Espinosa urge everyone to pray that the intruders find God in their hearts.

“We ask that everybody pray for them,” Martinez said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.