In Long Beach. It is almost 800 years old:
Los Angeles — A 780-year-old religious relic of St. Anthony of Padua has been stolen, and parishioners at a Southern California Catholic church are praying to the patron saint of lost items and missing persons for its speedy return.The relic was stolen from inside a cabinet beside the altar at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Long Beach on Monday, the feast day of the church’s namesake.
The Rev. Jose Magana said he decided to bring out the relic this year, on the 780th anniversary of the death of St. Anthony, because many of his parishioners have lost hope in the rough economy.
Magana said the relic is invaluable and deeply symbolic to his parish.
“It’s our history, so it’s irreplaceable,” Magana said. “It belongs to the church, not just the church here in Long Beach, but the entire Catholic church.”
The church opened at 6 a.m., and when Magana turned to the relic during the 9 a.m. Mass, it had disappeared. Magana could hear his parishioners gasp when they realized it was gone, but he continued with the service and called police immediately afterward.
Long Beach police Lt. Paul Arcala said the relic is housed in a 16-inch tall reliquary case with angel-shaped handles made of gold and silver on either side. He declined to describe it further because that might jeopardize the investigation.
The last time it was on view was eight years ago, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the parish. In Catholicism, relics are usually part of a saint’s body or clothes and revered as a physical connection to the saint.
While church members are upset that someone would steal a holy object, their faith is still strong…
There is more here.
This is police sketch of a person of interest sought in connection with the theft:
Hope they get it back!
UPDATE: It’s back and the thieving scoundrel has been caught!
A surveillance video provided the break that led to the arrest of a Long Beach woman in connection with the theft a 780-year-old religious relic, police said Thursday night.
The video footage from a camera at a nearby business showed a woman walking to St. Anthony’s Catholic Church on 6th Street during the early morning.
The relic of St. Anthony — a bone from his body — and the 16-inch case, or reliquary, that houses it were reported stolen Monday.
Police arrested Maria Solis, 41, Thursday on suspicion of grand theft and burglary, said Sgt. Rico Fernandez of the Long Beach Police Department.
He told The Times that investigators found other religious relics inside Solis’ apartment that may have been stolen from churches.
The priest at St. Anthony’s said Thursday night that the prayers of hundreds of people had been answered with the return of the relic, which was not damaged.
“St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things, travelers and the poor,” Father Jose Magaña told The Times. “Now he is home.”
Police said they had not determined a motive for the theft. Solis was still being questioned by detectives Thursday night.
The above surveillance video brought a particular Scripture to mind:
… a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, (Prov 8:16)