Theft of church bell leaves congregation baffled

The unholy heist of a historic church bell from a house of worship in the Oceanview neighborhood has spawned wild theories among parishioners.

They say members of another church may be behind the theft last week of the century-old church bell that had been on display in the courtyard of St. Michael’s Korean Catholic Church at 32 Broad St.

“Who else would need a bell like that?,” parishioner Anna Yoo, 44, said. “Some members are saying that some other church needed this bell.”

Another possibility is that the bell may have been stolen and sold for scrap metal, depending on the material.

The bell dates back to 1901. It has since been retired and for years had been mounted for display in the courtyard of the church property.

The bell was stolen sometime during the night last week, police said.

Church priest Rev. Vincent Kang-gun Lee was the first to notice the bell missing around 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 17. After staffers told Lee they hadn’t sent it for repairs, the church secretary said she called police.

The heist happened sometime the previous evening, Officer Albie Esparza said. No witnesses have come forward with suspect descriptions, he said.

“This is a serious offense and we’d like to have that property returned and have the people that are responsible held accountable,” he said.

The bell weighs hundreds of pounds and stands at least two-feet tall, making it a hard item to steal, police said. This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment theft, parishioners said.

Yoo said she doesn’t think teenagers were playing a prank, given the difficulty of moving the bell. If it isn’t another church’s doing, it could have been the dirty work of a collector, she said.

“I don’t think they will return it,” church secretary Theresa Shim said. “It’s very sad.”

Police are asking anyone who has any information on the bell’s whereabouts to contact authorities.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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