Thieves working under the cloak of darkness recently pried away sections of roofs, gutters and wiring made of copper from four Quebec City churches.

"It's audacious when you have to use a ladder of 15 or 20 feet to climb up and cut pieces of a roof," said Rev. Raymond Angers, who oversees two of the targeted churches.

One man stood lookout while two accomplices removed the 81-year-old metal from the St. Charles de Limoilou and St. Francois d'Assise churches. Another church also was attacked, along with a former church that had been sold to a funeral home.

By removing the roofs and flashing off ancillary buildings adjacent to the churches, the thieves exposed rotting wood that also has to be replaced.

"These people have no respect," Angers said in an interview, noting insurance deductibles of $2,500 will have to be paid for each of his two churches.

"If we see the start of an epidemic of stolen religious objects, we would consider what steps to take. But for the moment, there's been no special advice given to parishes."

Even though the thieves targeted non-sacred metal surfaces, the robberies were troubling to the faithful who maintain a special connection with their church, Tremblay said.

While robbing a church is unexpected, the theft of metal has long been a problem, said Len Shaw, executive director of the Canadian Association of Recycling Industries.

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