Stolen gold rings and cross devastating to St. Leo Abbey, community

(Source: Pasco County Sheriff's Office)

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is searching for suspects who stole religious artifacts from the Saint Leo Abbey in January.

The sheriff’s office said the items were stolen between Jan. 23 and Jan. 28.  An unknown suspect entered the abbey and removed five gold rings and a gold cross from a glass display case.

The gold cross is a religious artifact from the 1900s, adorned with four enamel medallions depicting religious moments.  The cross is estimated at $15,000 without historic value.

While the items are worth thousands more than $20,000, they represent decades of Catholic history in the community.

In a place where future monks come to study, the heartbreak is in a non-descript elevator lobby.

“There are four screws on each side, they’re well tied. We never thought someone will do it,” said Abbot Isaac.

Using an electric drill, a thief removed protective glass on a case, and took the rings and cross, belonging to past Abbots, known as the Fathers of the Monks.

“It’s the history. So, when somebody takes the history away, they are robbing you even your identity,” said Abbot Issaac.

Abbot Isaac wears his gold ring, and cross, passed on to him by the bishop.

A portrait hangs nearby that prominently shows the items that mark his position at the abbey.

The thief went to the trouble of disguising his deed.

“They re-arranged things so we will not see right away that things were missing.”

The Abbot thought he knew who took the items, but that turned out to be incorrect.  He turned to a police friend, who advised him to make a report.

The stolen items represent 125 years of abbey history.

“Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, it angers us and yes, we are very hurt. But, it’s also our duty as monks to be kind and loving towards all,” said Brother Taten Rupp.

The rings and cross could end up in a pawn shop, or worse.

“My fear is that they will cut in in pieces and sell it for broken gold. And everybody’s buying that,” said Abbot Isaac.

The Abbot said, he’s willing to forgive the thief, with one condition, the rings and cross are returned.

The thief did not leave any fingerprints, and at the time, there were no security cameras in place.

Cameras are now focused on the area and the glass case.

If you have any information or come across the items, please contact 1-800-706-2488 or leave a tip on the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office website.

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