Ancient book returned to Catholic Church in Scotland after police action

Scottish police worked with Dutch and Italian officers on the return of the Book of Sermons.

Officers from the Carabinieri returned the book to the Scots College in Rome, before it was then brought back to Scotland (Police Scotland/PA)
Officers from the Carabinieri returned the book to the Scots College in Rome, before it was then brought back to Scotland (Police Scotland/PA)

Police have worked with their counterparts in Italy and Holland to recover a centuries-old book which was illicitly taken from a collection belonging to the Catholic Church in Scotland.

The Book of Sermons by Cardinal Bellerine dates back to 1605, with the copy in question having been gifted to the church in Glasgow in the early 1900s.

It is not known exactly when it was removed from the 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 as it is against Canon law – the system of laws and ecclesiastical legal principles made and enforced by the Catholic Church – to alienate property of the church, law enforcement officers in the country seized it.

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

Detective Sergeant Billy Telford

Investigations into the book revealed a priest had gifted it to the Archdiocese in Glasgow

It was formally resituated to the Scots College in Rome before being returned to Scotland.

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

“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.”

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