An impressive international police operation returns a religious book to its rightful owner

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Dutch and Italian police combined their skills to ensure that a missing sermon book was returned to its rightful owner.

In an impressive joint operation between Italian and Dutch police, a 400-year-old book of sermons has finally been returned to its rightful owner, the Catholic Church of Scotland.

The leather-bound book was written by Cardinal Bellarmine in 1605. You may not know this eminent cardinal, but he was a highly regarded theologian, prolific writer, and was eventually canonized and named Doctor of Church.

The book was originally donated to the Archdiocese of Glasgow in the early 1900s. Although it is uncertain when the book was removed from the Church’s collection, it was thanks to the eagle eyes of the police that the book was able to be returned to Scotland.

Interestingly, the book appeared for sale on a Dutch website in September 2020. Fortunately, before the book was intended for sale to a potential buyer in Italy, the police intervened – due to the fact that under canon law it is illegal to alienate church property, thus allowing the Italian police, the Carabinieri, to seize the book.

Through a thorough police investigation, they discovered that the rightful owner was the Archdiocese of Glasgow. In a significant move, in April the book was taken to Scots College in Rome before it could possibly be sent back to Glasgow.

“This is a fantastic outcome for the church and for all the officers involved in the investigation,” Detective Sergeant Billy Telford of the Scottish Heritage Crime Group shared with the BBC. “It was a hugely interesting case to work on, tracing the book back to its roots here in Scotland. We don’t know how it came to be sold online, but it’s now back where it belongs with a fascinating story of its journey.

Something that really stands out in this whole story is the extensive efforts the police have made to secure the book and then go to the effort to thoroughly investigate its past and return it to Scotland. It is a wonderful sign of respect for the Church and for historical artifacts, and the importance of ensuring that precious works are protected.

Lewiston Police Department


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