The church of Santiago Apóstol, in Orihuela (Alicante). Juan Carlos photographs (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
A 37-year-old man, habitual offender and with addiction problems, entered last Friday, around 13 pm, in the church of Santiago Apóstol de Orihuela (Alicante). He went directly to the high altar, next to which, on an adjoining table, he found a chalice of a very striking golden color. His maneuvers alerted the sacristan, Águeda, who confronted the intruder with the help of her husband, who managed to close the door of the church outside and notify the National Police. The thief was immediately arrested with the stolen object still in his hands, went to court the next day and was sent to prison. The Oriolan clergy is alert, says José Antonio Martínez, parish priest of Santiago. "We have the valuables guarded in a safe and we have installed security equipment, we are very careful, they are entering all the parishes," he warns.
The head of the Oriolan church stresses that assaults on temples are common, both in Orihuela and "everywhere"; This year not a month goes by without a case happening in Alicante or Murcia. In January, a 56-year-old man of Italian origin was arrested by the National Police for taking more than 1,500 euros from the brush of the monastery of the Holy Face, in Alicante. The same body arrested a month later in Murcia two young people, 22 and 23 years old, for the assault on two churches located in two districts of Elche (Alicante), although they are related to a plot specialized in robberies with force in religious buildings of both provinces. In April, the Civil Guard deactivated a group dedicated to burglary that had burst the lock of a temple with sulfuric acid and had made a loot of crucifixes and chalices of great antiquity. Despite this, neither the National Police nor the Civil Guard, nor even the Bishopric of Orihuela-Alicante, all consulted by EL PAÍS, have activated a special alert device.
Martinez tells how the assault happened last Friday. "The guy came in very fast," he says. "Like many others, he has problems and needs money," he continues, "and he knows where to look." The assailant went directly to the area of the main altar, "in search of candlesticks or any other type of valuables that can be sold." He searched and found the chalice that the parish priest usually uses at Masses, "very striking, but of little value." Águeda noticed strange noises and, after detecting the thief, confronted him, who "pushed her and caused injuries" of a slight nature. The sacristan's husband joined the dispute, who after struggling to try to get the chalice, "managed to leave the church, closed the door from the outside" and called 091. "Unable to get out, the boy became enraged and started beating everywhere," the priest said. Four agents of the National Police came immediately, police sources say, and managed to apprehend him. It is a habitual criminal who, days before, had been arrested for stealing the charger of a mobile valued at only 15.95 euros in a Chinese bazaar. After passing through the court of instruction on Saturday 27, he entered prison.
The arrested is not from the environment of the assaulted temple, located in the neighborhood of El Rabaloche, in the old exit to Murcia, which is near two conflictive points of drug sales, says Martinez. "Many kids like that come here, who ask for money because they have needs, but we didn't know this one," he says. Santiago Apóstol is one of the many places of worship in the city that still holds the capital of the diocese of Alicante. Built in the fifteenth century, and qualified as an Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC), it has numerous pieces of value, such as a Sagrada Familia carved by Francisco Salzillo in 1765 or a collection of goldsmiths in which you can find two chalices of authentic value, one of the Order of Santiago and another given by Felipe II in 1603. "But these pieces are safe, in a safe," says the parish priest, "and are only taken out on very important occasions."
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits
I'm already a subscriber