The statue was one of four replicas of the one used in processions at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.
A New Jersey parish is praying for the safe return of a rare statue of Our Lady of Fatima, which was stolen from their sanctuary in broad daylight. While the entire theft was caught on security camera, the man in the footage has yet to be identified.
The incident took place on August 30, at the Church of St. Andrew the Apostle in Gibbsboro, New Jersey. Cameras outside the church first spotted the man approaching the building on foot, from a wooded area to the side of the property. Once inside, the man kept a casual pace as he made his way to the sanctuary.
The man, who appears middle-aged with thinning gray hair, simply walked up to the altar where the statue of Mary had been on display and snatched it up. He then carried the statue out of the church through a back door and walked off with the church’s prized artwork.
New Jersey 101.5 reports that the statue is a rare replica of the one used in evening processions at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima, in Portugal. There are only four such replicas in existence. The statue is adorned with a replica of the Fatima’s statue’s crown. The original crown, in Fatima, contains a bullet from the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II.
While the statue is valued at $4,000, Monsignor Louis Marcucci, pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle, explained it was very personal to him:
“When I purchased it, I was informed that very few of these exist and he (the vendor) sold it to me because he was moved by my personal story of overcoming suffering,” Marcucci told New Jersey 101.5.
According to the church’s website, Monsignor Marucci has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair. His bio notes that he sees his disability as an opportunity to overcome a challenge and he continues to enjoy activities like skiing, although he must use adaptive equipment to do so.
The monsignor went on to note that the theft hit the parish particularly hard, as the statue was set to be the centerpiece of their upcoming celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady. On September 8, the parish will recite the Hail Mary 2,000 times to honor the blessed mother on her birthday.
Despite clear images of the man’s face in the video, authorities have not yet identified the thief. Monsignor Marucci told Fox29 that he believes the man previously visited the church to plan the theft.
“They don’t exit the door they came in so obviously they knew [the] parish and church,” Marucci said. “It’s incomprehensible that someone would actually take it out of its place of enthronement.”
He went on to note that he intends to press charges for this “intentional crime,” which he suggests in the video report could have been motivated by hate. He said that the parish is praying that the statue might be returned before Thursday’s celebration.