When Bishop James Conley's residence in Lincoln, Nebraska was invaded and burglarized this weekend, he offered a message of forgiveness and called on the faithful to pray that the thief will discover Christ and return the stolen items.
“One of Christ's last acts on the Cross was forgiveness of a repentant thief,” Bishop Conley said in a statement, adding that “certainly, the Church forgives the person responsible for this crime. God offers his mercy well.”
“I ask all Catholics to join me in praying that the thief will experience a conversion of heart, and seek the mercy of God,” the Lincoln bishop continued.
Around 1:30 P.M. on Saturday, Oct. 10, the alarm in Bishop Conley's residence was set off, notifying local diocesan officials and the Lincoln police. The bishop was not at home at the time of the break-in.
Among the items stolen were pectoral crosses, one of which is believed to contain a relic of the cross of Jesus. However, no additional items of value were taken from the bishop's home, and local law enforcement has opened an investigation into the burglary.
Pectoral crosses, usually large and ornamental, are worn by Catholic bishops, cardinals, and popes around their chest as a symbol of their distinctive seat within the Church.
“These crosses belong to the whole Diocese of Lincoln. They signify the unity of our Church in Christ. Let us pray together that they might be returned,” Bishop Conley said.
The Diocese of Lincoln is fully cooperating with the investigation of the burglary, according to diocesan spokesman J.D. Flynn.
“Forgiveness does not exclude accountability,” Flynn said in a recent press release, urging the burglar to give back the crosses. He also stated that the return of the stolen items would be accepted — even anonymously — at any Catholic Church.
Bishop Conley underscored the various outreaches that the Diocese of Lincoln provides, including shelter, food, counseling, training for employment, and crisis assistance. The bishop voiced hope that the local Church would be able to help the burglar, if he or she is in need.
“We care a great deal about the poor, because Jesus Christ was poor. I hope no one will resort to stealing because of some poverty,” Bishop Conley noted, saying, “I hope people, including this thief, will know that the Catholic Church stands eager to help in whatever way we can.”
“I pray, quite sincerely, that the thief will discover that Christ died for him, loves him, and desires to bring him to eternal joy.”