Pope Benedict XVI on April 21, 2007, in Vigevano, Italy. / Credit: miqu77/Shutterstock

CNA Newsroom, May 8, 2024 / 11:07 am (CNA).

The man arrested for the theft of a pectoral cross bequeathed by the late Pope Benedict XVI to a parish in his native Bavaria is now facing time behind bars.

According to CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, the Traunstein district court on Monday sentenced a 53-year-old Czech citizen to two years and six months in prison.

The perpetrator, whom authorities described as a serial thief with a history of crimes across several European countries, left traces at the crime scene that led to his identification and arrest.

However, local media reported that the cross is still missing, and the verdict may yet be appealed.

Pope Benedict XVI bequeathed a pectoral cross to St. Oswald’s Church in the city of Traunstein in Bavaria after his retirement in 2013. The cross was stolen June 19, 2023, from the church. Credit: Bavarian Police/CNA Deutsch

The court heard from the accused’s lawyer that his client had stolen the pectoral cross because he felt it was “worth stealing” and selling on due to its appearance: The cross, measuring approximately 5.9 inches in length, is crafted from gold-plated silver and adorned with a gemstone. 

Despite the judge interrupting the trial twice to give the defendant and his lawyer time to call an associate to whom he allegedly had given the cross “for safekeeping,” all attempts to contact the associate were unsuccessful — leaving the cross’ whereabouts still unknown.

Before the verdict was announced, the defendant personally addressed the court, saying he knew that the list of his previous convictions was so long that he did not appear credible. Nevertheless, he promised that the cross would come back to Traunstein, Bavarian state media reported

The value of the cross to the Catholic Church is “not quantifiable,” the police said at the time of the theft. 

Former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was born in the small Bavarian community of Marktl am Inn. When Joseph was 2 years old, his father moved the family to Traunstein, where he studied at the seminary.

The late pontiff celebrated his first Mass as a newly ordained priest at St. Oswald’s in 1951. After the renovation in 2020, the cross was exhibited in the now-broken display case.