The bishop of Saltillo in the Mexican border state of Coahuila, Hilario González García, has announced the automatic excommunication (“latae sententiae”) of the one or more thieves who broke into a Catholic church and stole and desecrated the Eucharist.

The incident occurred the morning of Nov. 25 at Sacred Heart of Jesus chapel, part of Our Lady of Schoenstatt Parish located on the outskirts of the city.

“As the front door was forced open, and also the tabernacle, the ciborium with the Blessed Sacrament was wrongfully stolen,” read the statement signed by González.

The prelate declared the act as “a violation of the sacred place [the chapel] and a sacrilege against the sacred Eucharistic species, therefore, whoever perpetrated it, if he is Catholic, has committed a crime against the sacraments.”

“For the very serious offense committed against Our Lord,” González invited all the faithful to join in prayer, “performing acts of reparation and promoting love for Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.” For now, he explained, Mass will not be possible until reparation is made for the offense.

Canon 1211 of the Code of Canon Law establishes: “Sacred places are violated by gravely injurious actions done in them with scandal to the faithful, actions which, in the judgment of the local ordinary, are so grave and contrary to the holiness of the place that it is not permitted to carry on worship in them until the damage is repaired by a penitential rite according to the norm of the liturgical books.”

Given the situation, the bishop invited the faithful, and particularly the parish priests, “to take great care for the security of sacred places.” He asked the people in the surrounding area that “if anyone finds the sacred hosts or the ciborium, he should inform Our Lady of Schohnstatt Parish.”

González also reported that whoever broke into the chapel also took two folding tables and a speaker.

In response to an inquiry by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, the diocesan communications office ruled out that it was an act against the faith and described it as an act of vandalism and theft.

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This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.