Ancient book returned to Catholic Church in Scotland after police action

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Police worked with their counterparts in Italy and the Netherlands to recover a centuries-old book that was illegally taken from a collection belonging to the Catholic Church in Scotland.

Cardinal Bellerine’s book of sermons dates from 1605, the copy in question having been donated to the church in Glasgow in the early 1900s.

It is unclear exactly when it was removed from collection, but it came to the attention of officers when it was found for sale on a Dutch website in September 2020.

It was sold to a buyer in Italy, but because it is contrary to canon law – the system of laws and ecclesiastical legal principles developed and applied by the Catholic Church – to alienate church property, the forces of the order of the country seized him.

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.

Inquiries into the book revealed that a priest had gifted it to the Archdiocese of Glasgow

He was officially transferred to Scots College in Rome before being sent back to Scotland.

Detective Sergeant Billy Telford, of Police Scotland’s Scottish Heritage Crime Group, said: “This is a fantastic achievement for the church and for all the officers involved in the investigation.

“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.”

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