Sunday 25 February 2018

Stolen relic returned to church

The 780-year-old religious relic of St Anthony was stolen from a church near LA on Monday (AP)
The 780-year-old religious relic of St Anthony was stolen from a church near LA on Monday (AP)

Prayers for the safe return of a 780-year-old relic stolen from a church near Los Angeles have been answered.

Police recovered the relic of St Anthony of Padua at the Long Beach home of Maria Solis, 41, who was arrested on suspicion of commercial burglary, police chief Robert Luna said.

Parishioners applauded when a police officer placed the delicate gold and silver reliquary containing a tiny shard of bone on a table at the news conference in front of the church.

Mr Luna said detectives canvassed the neighbourhood with a composite sketch of a person of interest who was seen at five Masses the day before the theft.

Investigators found CCTV footage which showed a woman walking to St Anthony's Catholic church on Monday, the day of the theft, and the day before, he said.

Detectives said they found the relic displayed in the living room of Solis' home, about a mile from the church, on Thursday.

St Anthony's pastor, the Rev Jose Magana, said the relic appears to be undamaged.

"St Anthony is the patron saint of travellers and lost things but today he's also the honorary saint of the Long Beach Police Department," Mr Magana said. "He just wanted to come home because it belongs to everyone."

Afterwards, under the watchful eyes of a police officer, Mr Magana carried the delicate gold reliquary inside where about three dozen people prayed in English and Spanish to thank God for returning the artefact.

Mr Luna said detectives are still in the process of interviewing and assessing Solis, and do not yet have any motive for the theft.

Press Association

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