A VICAR has described the pain of his church being targeted by criminals, urging thieves and vandals: “Leave us in peace”.
Canon David Bliss, the vicar of Rotherham, said that thieves had caused thousands of pounds worth of damage when breaking in to Rotherham Minster over the years but gained very little, while vandals have left holes in the stained glass windows.
Mr Bliss said he was saddened that the people who committed the crimes have reached a point in their lives when they felt they had to do so.
The vicar said that there had been four break-ins at the Minster in the last few years and holes had appeared in stained glass windows just three months ago.
He told the Advertiser: “We get crime incidents from time to time.
“Over the past few years the nature of the incidents that have occurred are people breaking in to gain access to the alms box.
“When that has happened it is very often creating quite a bit of damage and some considerable cost of more than £1,000 — and there was just £20 to £25 in the alms box.
“Also, someone broke into the vestry to get access to the church but set off the burglar alarm.
“With regard to the stained glass windows, one cannot be sure how these things are happening but we do find an amount of breakages in the windows that may be caused by vandalism.”
Mr Bliss said there had also been graffiti on the seats in the Minster’s churchyard, as well as at the historic Chapel on the Bridge at the bottom of Bridgegate.
Broken bottles are often found outside the church, he added.
Mr Bliss said he regretted that the Minster had been a crime scene.
He said: “I feel sad that they feel the need to do that in the first place and that they would try and gain access and cause damage for very little gain.
“I feel sad that they are in that situation because sometimes their situation is that they need help.
“There is always a sadness.”
Mr Bliss said that the church had burglar alarms and floodlighting to deter criminals, and its location in the town centre means that people are often around the area which put many criminals off.
But the clergyman, who retires this month, urged criminals to leave the church alone because it is an important place for local people.
Mr Bliss said: “Please don’t target the church.
“It causes an enormous amount of damage and always causes an enormous amount of upset for people.”