Residents in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg awoke on Wednesday to discover a familiar religious statue had been torn from its pedestal outside the rectory of Saints Peter and Paul Church in the middle of the night.
The theft of the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue was captured on a nearby security camera, which shows a lone individual hauling away the nearly 4-foot-high porcelain statue.
Police have yet to determine whether the crime was a cruel prank or motivated by anti-Christian sentiment. As a precaution, the New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Unit has been assigned to the case.
Whatever the reason, Catholic or not, residents in the diverse neighborhood are livid over the theft.
“They don’t have no heart at all because to do that is a sin,” Myrna Troche told CBS New York
The sentiment was shared by fellow Williamsburg resident Louise Gergel adding, “It’s a shame. It’s one damn shame.”
“I mean what would you do with something like that anyway, put it in your house? It makes absolutely no sense,” said Peter Caine, also of Williamsburg.
Though not expensive, the statue, which had been displayed outside the rectory for the past decade, represented a great deal more to many in the neighborhood.
“It’s a sign of the presence of God among his people. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is one of the most famous expressions of religious devotion in our Catholic world,” said the parish’s Rev. Manuel de Jesus Rodriguez.
“We are concerned more for the people. We like to leave our two churches open the whole day for people to come to have some quiet time of prayer,” he said. “Our two churches are full of statues and religious symbols so we really don’t like to think that this is kind of an announcement that a religious attack is happening.”
According to the priest, he has no interest in prosecuting the theft, adding, “We want, if possible, our statue back and if not try please to not do that again because this is certainly not a nice thing to do.”
He noted that the church’s planned Christmas celebration for its 1,500-person congregation will not be disrupted by the theft.
Church officials have yet to say whether they will replace the statue.
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