LINCOLN, Neb. — Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln is asking Catholics to pray for “a conversion of heart” of the person who stole his pectoral cross Oct. 10.
The cross was stolen from his home, when the bishop was not there, at 1:30 p.m. A tripped alarm alerted diocesan officials and the Lincoln Police Department to the break-in.
According to the Diocese of Lincoln, the pectoral cross, worn by bishops, was the only item stolen.
The Lincoln Police Department is investigating the theft. As of Oct. 13, there were no new developments in the case.
The bishop said the cross was a personal gift from Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, the year of Bishop Conley’s appointment to the Lincoln Diocese. Because the cross was a gift, it is irreplaceable, according to the diocese.
Bishop Conley said in a statement that he sincerely prays “the thief will discover that Christ died for him, loves him and desires to bring him eternal joy.”
“One of Christ’s last acts on the cross was the forgiveness of a repentant thief. Certainly, the church forgives the person responsible for this crime. God offers his mercy as well,” he added.
The bishop also asked for prayers that the cross be safely returned. “The cross is a treasure for the whole Diocese of Lincoln. It signifies the unity of our church in Christ. ”
JD Flynn, diocesan spokesman, said the diocese is cooperating fully with law enforcement’s investigation. “Forgiveness does not exclude accountability,” he added.
He also noted that the stolen cross could be returned to any Catholic Church and could even be left anonymously.
Bishop Conley, pointing out that the diocese offers counseling, shelter, food, employment training and emergency assistance to those in financial need, said he hoped the church could assist the thief in some way.
“We care a great deal about the poor, because Jesus Christ was poor,” the bishop said. “I hope no one will resort to stealing because of some poverty. I hope people, including this thief, will know that the Catholic Church stands eager to help in whatever way we can.”