By Jeremy Walsh
St. John Chrysostom Eastern Orthodox Church on 45th Avenue lost two bells, one 150 pounds and the other 100 pounds. St. Mary's Church on 48th Avenue lost a 650-pound bell that was about to be installed in a memorial garden on the grounds.Both churches suspect the bells were stolen to be melted down for their value in scrap copper. According to the Web site ScrapIndex.com, scrap copper was selling for as much as $3.09 a pound on April 7. The bells are bronze, an alloy of copper and tin. Bells are generally between 80 percent and 85 percent copper, which means the scrap value of the St. Mary's bell could be as much as $1,700, and the combined scrap value of the two St. John's bells could be more than $650.The St. John's bells were imported from Greece nine years ago, a gift from a family in memory of their deceased parents.The Rev. Daniel Degyansky said the bells were discovered missing around 8:15 a.m.”At first I thought maybe it was just our local drug addict trying to feed his habit, because when I picked those bells up at Kennedy Airport, I picked them up myself and put them in the trunk of my car,” said Degyansky. “But then I heard about the St. Mary's bell.”The Rev. Brendan Duggan of St. Mary's said this is the second time the bell was stolen. The previous theft occurred four years ago, he said, when the bell was mounted on a pedestal in front of the church. That time, the bell was recovered by police in a local scrapyard, he said.”It stood there for 40 years before that,” he said, noting the prevalence of poverty in the neighborhood. “In today's world, anything can happen.”Duggan said he believed the bell may be hidden at a local scrap yard, “too hot” to be sold and melted down.Degyansky said he thinks the jobs were done professionally by four or five men with a truck. He believes the bells may have been taken out of state to avoid the publicity raised when the thefts were discovered.Duggan said a St. Mary's parishioner is offering $500 for the safe return of the bell.”I guess the moral of the story is if you have anything of value, keep it hidden,” he said.Degyansky said he had no message to offer the public. He said the church has still not decided whether it will replace the bells.”I know the monsignor is doing the whole forgiveness thing, but I'm finding it hard in my heart of hearts to do this thing,” he said. “Perhaps there's a special place reserved in hell for them. Who knows?”Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.