Thief seen stealing expensive, special statue from church in NJ
GIBBSBORO — Authorities and parishioners are hoping for the public's help in identifying a man who walked off with a large statue of the Virgin Mary.
Security cameras captured the man on the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 30, leaving the St. Andrew the Apostle Church with the statue in his arms.
The man appears to be middle-aged with gray, thinning hair and was wearing eyeglasses.
The statue has both significant monetary as well as emotional value for Monsignor Louis Marucci, who spent more than $4,000 in 2016 to purchase and transport the religious object from Portugal.
Marucci said the figure is a rare exact replica of the statue that is used in evening processions at the Catholic pilgrimage site in Fatima, Portugal.
"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," Marucci said Monday.
Marucci adorned the statue with rosaries that are replicas of the prayer beads carried by the statue in Fatima. Marucci also purchased a special crown that is a replica of the one in Fatima that contains a bullet from the assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II in the Vatican on May 13, 1981, which was the 64th anniversary of the first reported appearance of Our Lady of Fatima to the three shepherd children in that Portuguese town.
"Sadly, we have an important celebration that we scheduled to hold on Thursday, September 8, which is the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady," Marucci said. For 12 hours that day, which is Mary's birthday, parishioners recite the "Hail Mary" prayer 2,000 times.
This is the latest religious figure to be stolen in New Jersey.
In June, authorities charged two men with cutting down the bronze Angel of Hope statue from in intersection in Trenton. The statue was tracked to a scrapyard in Philadelphia.
The night after Christmas last year, three 50-pound statues of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus were stolen from a nativity scene in front of Holy Cross Church in Woodland Park.
Anyone with information about the statue from St. Andrew in Gibbsboro is asked to call church officials at 856-784-3878.