BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — Father John Hutnyan is heartbroken.
The interim pastor at Sts. Peter & Paul Orthodox Church in Buffalo's Lovejoy neighborhood discovered thieves broke into his 125-year-old church this past weekend and stole a dozen special liturgical items, such as hand crosses and a tabernacle.
The stolen items had a value of between $3,500 and $5,000.
One of the items taken, a silver pectoral cross, also had a special sentimental value for the soon-to-be 65-year-old priest.
"It was one of the last, and really, one of the few mementos that I have of my dad," explained Rev. Hutnyan.
The stolen silver cross was originally presented to the pastor's father in 1951 when his dad, also Fr. John Hutnyan, was ordained a priest. The elder Fr. Hutnyan ministered in both Buffalo and Pittsburgh.
However, he died when his son was only 15 years old. His pectoral cross (which is worn around the neck and hangs on the chest), was given to his boy who would later in life become an Orthodox priest himself and use the cross in his ministry.
"I left my cross on the altar, where it should be when I am not wearing it. So, I miss it and I hope they return it," said the tearful Orthodox pastor.
It appeared the burglars pried open a back door to gain entrance sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning.
While sad over all the stolen items, Fr. Hutnyan is glad the intruders did not trash the church. Strangely, they did not disturb many other religious items and left behind things such as an ornamental chalice.
"They took the tabernacle, then placed the chalice and put the globe back over it," said the reverend.
Detectives told the priest that the thieves may have been looking for valuable items to get quick cash for drugs. Since it was feared they could return, more precautions are now in place to safeguard the church.
At this point, Fr. Hutnyan and his wife, Nancy, are hoping whoever took the special cross will bring it back without any questions asked. "It would mean so much for my husband to have that cross back," said Nancy Hutnyan.
"If they are kind-hearted and have a soul, they will bring it back. If not, we take another avenue," commented Rev. Hutnyan.
The stolen silver cross has the words "Fr. John Hutnyan" and "1951" engraved on the back.
Anyone with information about the break-in, or the whereabouts of the special cross, can call the Buffalo Police Confidential Tip Call Line at (716) 847-2255.