The pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in Gibbsboro, New Jersey, is praying that the parish’s Our Lady of Fatima statue — which was stolen last week — is returned before the celebration of the Nativity of Mary on Sept. 8.
In an interview with Fox29, Monsignor Louis Marucci, the pastor, said that the statue was stolen by a man in the early evening on Aug. 30.
The statue, from Portugal, is one of only four in existence, according to the outlet. The statue also holds immense sentimental value for the parish community, Fox29 reported.
Marucci said that “The monetary value can’t even hold a candle to the spiritual and symbolic significance of the image.”
According to the outlet, the church holds a day of prayer in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s nativity. The statue was supposed to be in a central spot for the day of prayer.
“I’m just praying that it gets returned before Thursday, somebody knows where this person lives,” the pastor said.
The outlet reported that the suspect who stole the statue can be seen on video entering the church’s property from the woods and looking through a church window.
In security videos obtained and published by Fox29, the suspect can be seen entering the church while looking around. The man can be seen entering a chapel and grabbing the statue off an altar.
He can be seen looking around as he begins to exit. On his way out he struggles a bit to get both himself and the 3-foot statue out the door, but eventually succeeds and is gone. Marucci notes that the suspect exited through a different door than that by which he entered, which he thinks indicates that the man is familiar with the building.
The man doesn’t appear aggressive or physically violent while on camera. In recent church thefts or vandalism, physical aggressiveness has often been a factor.
Marucci said that he plans to press charges and the local police say that an investigation is ongoing.