A blasphemous bandit stole and damaged a beloved statue from inside a Park Slope church, according to cops, who said police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.
The sacrilegious snake swiped the statue of Our Lady of Cisne — a Catholic Marian icon native to the Loja province of Ecuador — from Ninth Street’s St. Thomas Aquinas Church on Feb. 20, devastating parishioners who said their daily prayers before the monument, according to the house of worship’s parish administrator.
“It’s a part of who they are, a lot of them come every single morning to pay homage to our lady and pray in front of this statue,” said Fr. Willy Ndi. “To come and not be able to do that, something they’ve done for years and years, it’s heartbreaking.”
The thief entered through the church’s main entrance at 11:10 am, and emerged with the three-foot-tall statue just three minutes later, suggesting the suspect knew his way around the holy house near Fourth Avenue, according to Ndi.
“He certainly knew the place and he was quite comfortable, very calm,” the priest said.
The vandal then crossed Fourth Avenue, before tossing the shrine in a garbage can near an entrance to the Fourth Avenue-Ninth Street station, breaking off the figurine’s hand that held the baby Jesus, and insulting parishioners and all local Catholics in the process, according to Ndi.
“The statue of our mother being placed in a garbage can, it’s insulting,” he said. “It is really sad.”
Church leaders plan to repair or replace the statue in due time, but will let the investigation led by officers in the Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force run its course before making any decisions, according to the parish priest, who said clergy won’t display the statue in the meantime.
Cops, who have yet to identify a suspect, said the burglar was last seen wearing a black jacket, blue jeans, and white sneakers.
And the recent incident wasn’t the first time a vandal targeted the church’s Our Lady of Cisne statue — another goon nabbed, dumped, and damaged the shrine weeks earlier, on Jan. 26, Ndi said.
St. Thomas Aquinas leaders did not report that theft, however, only contacting police after the second incident, according to the priest, who said he could not provide more detail about the earlier theft because he transferred to the Park Slope church from a Cobble Hill parish on Feb. 1.
Anyone with information in regard to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers hotline at (800) 577-8477. The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at www.nypdcrimestoppers.com, on Twitter @NYPDTips, or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.