A PRIEST says he feels his church has been desecrated after crooks broke in and stole sacred silver.

The thieves smashed their way in to Christ the King Church, in Bowburn, County Durham, through a rear fire door and burst into the vestry.

There, they stole a safe containing silver articles used in church services, up to £400 parishioners had paid in for tickets in a Christmas grand draw and a register of christenings and marriages.

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In the main church, they tore a tabernacle containing bread and wine used in Holy Communion off a wall.

Father John Livesley said: “I feel these are holy things and they have been desecrated.

“Everyone was upset – for the mess that was caused and the loss. There’s a sense of being invaded.

“It’s a new church and it was built with efforts from the local congregation. The church is there to serve the community and it’s sad that anyone would want to treat us in this way.”

The burglary took place between 1pm on Sunday, December 15, and 9am on Tuesday, December 17. The devastation was discovered by a cleaner.

The crooks abandoned the tabernacle in the church and although they took the safe, villagers found it a field in nearby Quarrington Hill on Wednesday, December 18.

The cash was gone but the silver was strewn around the field, so has been recovered.

Since then, donations have flooded in from sympathetic parishioners from within the church and beyond.

Fr Livesley, who lives in Spennymoor, said: “We’re so grateful for the help we’ve received. The donations have been very generous.

“We’ve seen the very best of humanity and something like the worst.”

The new Christ the King Church, opened on Bowburn’s Prince Charles Avenue in 2010 at a cost of around £230,000, replacing one of the region’s most flamboyant places of worship, affectionately known as the Pineapple Church, which featured a free-standing bell tower known as the rocket.

The iconic 1970s church was pulled down in autumn 2007 and the rocket fell victim to strong gales in October 2009.

Anyone with information on the burglary is asked to call Durham Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800-555-111.