Festive miracle as stolen Jesus is handed into gardai
IT IS a small Christmas miracle.
A statue of baby Jesus was returned yesterday evening, hours after being snatched from an outdoor crib.
But the 12-pound ceramic figurine was badly damaged and workers now face a race against time to make a new statue before midnight on Christmas Eve.
The baby Jesus was stolen from the crib outside the cathedral in Waterford city in the early hours of yesterday morning.
By evening, it appeared that the pranksters who stole the holy statue had a change of heart.
Baby Jesus turned up in a box in the city garda station.
But the damage means it will probably be easier to re-make the statue than to carry out the necessary repairs.
Baby Jesus remained in custody last night as officers dusted the statue for fingerprints. Gardai also said they will examine CCTV to catch the culprits.
Gardai in the student city are more used to dealing with items such as traffic cones being lifted. However, they were surprised by the latest incident.
The nativity scene has been attracting visitors to the cathedral on Barronstrand Street for the past 10 days.
Fr Gerry Langford said he believed the culprits may have taken the statue in a "moment of madness after a few beers".
"Gardai have found him now but unfortunately, the statue is damaged. It's been quite an amazing story. Everyone is talking about it in Waterford," he said.
Fr Langford said the crib was erected outside the cathedral as a "visual reminder" of the true meaning of Christmas.
"Lots of people don't come inside the church so we hoped it would capture everybody's imagination."
Fr Langford added that the children were so excited to see the baby Jesus, the statue had been placed in the crib before the traditional date of December 24.
The statue had been blessed with holy water so Fr Langford said he was "relieved" it had been returned to gardai.
"Gardai want to hold on to it for a couple of days. They will need to dust it for fingerprints and maybe take a few photographs. We won't expect him back until Thursday," he said.
FAS workers were already working a replacement for baby Jesus last night and Fr Langford said they were "casting a new one" from the previous mould.
Ronan Douglas, who brought his 15-month-old son, Cian, to see the baby Jesus before it was stolen said he was "surprised" by the theft.
"He was quite a big baby so whoever took it would have had difficulty carrying it. You couldn't miss it if it was in someone's living room," he said.