Dutch and Italian police combined their skills to ensure a missing book of sermons was returned to its rightful owner.
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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 be familiar with this eminent cardinal, but he was a theologian of great standing, a prolific writer, and was eventually canonized and made a Doctor of the Church.
The book was originally gifted to the archdiocese in Glasgow at the beginning of the 1900s. While it’s uncertain when the book was taken from the Church’s collection, it was thanks to the eagle eyes of the police that the book could be returned to Scotland.
Interestingly, the book appeared for sale on a Dutch website in September 2020. Thankfully, before the book was meant to be sold to a potential buyer in Italy, the police stepped in — due to the fact that under canon law it is illegal to alienate church property, thereby allowing the Italian police, the Carabinieri, to seize the book.
Thanks to a dedicated investigation by the police force, they discovered the rightful owner was the Archdiocese of Glasgow. In a meaningful move, in April the book was taken to the Scots College in Rome before it could eventually be returned to Glasgow.
“This is a fantastic result for the church and for all the officers involved in the investigation,” shared Detective Sergeant Billy Telford of the Scottish Heritage Crime Group with the BBC. “It was an extremely interesting case to work on, tracing the book back to its roots here in Scotland. We don’t know how it came to be for sale 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 great lengths the police went to in securing the book, and then making 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 making sure precious works are protected.