3 Thieves Steal Brooklyn Church’s Statue of Jesus

3 Thieves Steal Brooklyn Church’s Statue of Jesus
NY Times, May 5, 2016

The police were searching on Thursday for three laughing thieves who made off with a statue of Jesus from a Roman Catholic church over the weekend, clergy and police officials said.

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The Diocese of Brooklyn announced the theft on Thursday, a holy day set aside to commemorate Christ’s ascension into heaven. The SS. Peter and Paul Church is asking for the return of the statue, said Mother Maria Bendita, the mother superior of the Williamsburg parish to which the church belongs.

The three-foot-tall statue, which depicts Jesus holding a heart, was a century-old family heirloom donated to the church in 2012 after a previous version was stolen, the donors and church officials said. It sat staked on a pedestal in front of the church rectory until early Saturday morning, when three thieves grabbed it, church and police officials said.

“They knew what they were doing,” Mother Bendita said, adding, “It’s a pattern of disrespect that we are seeing for our faith.”

Surveillance video shows the thieves approaching the figure of Jesus around 2:15 a.m. in front of the church rectory on South Third Street. In the video, a young woman wearing ballet-style flats lifts the statue off its base and tucks it under her right arm, laughing as she and her companions run away.

The police said that the three thieves had not been identified or apprehended but that they probably lived nearby.

Waleska Soto, 43, the church secretary, said she noticed the statue was missing when she showed up for work on Tuesday. But parish officials thought a member or maintenance worker might have taken it for cleaning until they saw the video on Wednesday and reported the theft to the police, she said.

“I’m upset,” said Ms. Soto, who grew up in the church and was married there. “It’s something sacred. It belonged to the rectory. It belonged to the community.”

George Damerel donated the statue with his wife, Kathleen, days before Christmas in 2012, about two weeks after its predecessor was stolen. It had been in his wife’s family for over 100 years, and her maternal grandmother had kept the statue on top of an altar in her bedroom, where she prayed before it in the morning and at night, the couple said.

“No kidding,” Mr. Damerel said in a telephone interview from his home in New Jersey, after being told of the theft. “Isn’t that awful. I can’t believe it. That’s amazing. I don’t know what to say.”

The church’s original statue, a ceramic version that had stood outside the rectory for more than a decade, was pilfered by an unknown man in December 2012, according to the church and the police. It was never found, and the thief was never apprehended, the police said.