Missing pipe organ recovered from former St. Justin musician

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Pittsburgh police have recovered a pipe organ worth an estimated $200,000 that was taken from St. Justin Catholic Church.

Police said they received a call Sunday and learned that the church's former organist removed it Feb. 22 for safekeeping. The church in Mount Washington closed two weeks ago after it merged with St. Mary of the Mount Parish.

Detectives said the organist, whose name was not released, had a key to the church and was worried that the organ would be damaged in the cold of winter and the heat of summer if left unattended.

Extreme temperatures cause the leather on the organ bellows to become brittle and crack.

The organist, who will not be charged, according to police, told investigators that he talked with a church officials about his desire to maintain the organ.

But police said the man had not received permission to remove it.

Police said in a news release that the man told detectives he was "thinking with his heart and not with his head" when he removed the organ.

In its own written statement, church representatives said not pursuing charges was the right thing to do.

"In this Lenten season of repentance and transforming mercy, one Pittsburgh church now has an opportunity to show the healing power of God's love and forgiveness in action," according to the statement.

The church's pastor, Father Michael Stumpf, said the organist promised to return the organ in the same condition it had been when installed.

"In our estimation, this was an imprudent and terrible mistake but not fully criminal," the pastor said in the statement. "There was no intention to sell, and there seemed to have been no malicious intent meant toward the parish community."

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localnews@post-gazette.com First Published March 4, 2013 12:45 AM


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