PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Parishioners sang their final hymns at St. Justin Catholic Church on Mt. Washington a month ago.
The building was closing as the result of a Diocesan merger.
“There’s a sign in the church that says, ‘He who sings prays twice,’” said Kendra McLaughlin, a spokesperson for the combined parishes.
Their singing was accompanied on a beautiful pipe organ. Last Thursday, that organ disappeared from the choir loft of the church – quite a prize – valued at nearly $200,000 and not an easy heist.
“It’s huge — the organ and the pipes were taken,” McLaughlin said.
“He saw the news report and realized what he did was wrong,” Sgt. Kevin Gasiorowski of the City Burglary Squad said.
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On Sunday afternoon, a man went to police after talking with his pastor – and confessed.
“The person has come forward and asked for forgiveness, and especially in this season of Lent it’s a wonderful opportunity to show god’s love and God’s mercy,” McLaughlin said.
“The unidentified man cared for the organ in the past so he had a key to the church,” Gasiorowski said. “It took him three days to dismantle it and transport all the pieces … he had the organ and pipes in his apartment.”
The church is declining to prosecute.
The Diocese is not pressing charges because the man who allegedly took the organ is a former employee who was concerned because the building is no longer in use that something would happen to the instrument.
Detectives said earlier that he took it because he was “obsessed with its beauty, and did not want to see it damaged.”
He had good intentions they say.
“He had no intention of selling it,” McLaughlin said. “He had no intention of breaking it down.”
The penitent man has to return the organ by Wednesday and he’ll have to apologize to the parish and make some kind of restitution to be determined by the pastor.
“I believe the gentleman stated he was acting with his heart,” McLaughlin said.
The organ will be placed elsewhere for safekeeping.