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Thieves swipe 'irreplaceable' religious artifacts from Saint Leo Abbey

Gold rings, cross estimated value of $15K
Posted at 11:17 PM, Mar 16, 2017

Pasco County investigators are searching for thieves who slipped into a monastery and stole valuable artifacts that monks consider irreplaceable. 

Abbot Isaac Camacho has spent more than half his life at Saint Leo Abbey. 

"I love this community," said Abbot Isaac.  "It's my community. The peace of this house is of great value."

But the peace of mind shared by the 16 monks who live there was rattled after a mysterious theft in late January. 

"We had all the rings in here and another stand like this one with another cross," said Abbot Isaac. 

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office says someone carefully unscrewed a glass case in the lobby and broke into a display. 

"They took whatever they wanted and they rearranged things so they will not be seen right away if something is missing," said Abbot Isaac. 

Abbey leaders recently installed two security cameras inside the lobby to keep watch over the display case. 

"No one would suspect anyone stealing anything from a monastery," said Tate Rupp.  "It's not something that we watch for on a daily basis like you would in a jewelry store."

Thieves stole five gold rings once worn by previous monastery abbots. 

The biggest loss though, is a gold cross adorned with four enamel medallions depicting religious 

moments. The cross is more than 80 years old, according to Abbot Isaac. 

"Do you believe it was somebody who was familiar with this place," asked ABC Action News.  "It has to be," said Abbot Isaac.  "It has to be. They have to know our routine. Otherwise, how can they do it?" 

The total loss is reported to be around $15,000, but monks say no dollar amount can represent the real value 

of artifacts spanning 125 years of Saint Leo's history. 

"For these items to be taken are just heartbreaking," said Rupp.  "It represents that lineage of great spiritual growth."

If you have any information or come across these items, you're asked to contact the Pasco County Sheriff's Office at 1-800-706-2488 with information.