LOS ANGELES — A 780-year-old religious relic of St. Anthony of Padua has been stolen, and parishioners at a Southern California Catholic church are praying to the patron saint of lost items and missing persons for its speedy return.
The relic was stolen from inside a cabinet beside the altar at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Long Beach on Monday, the feast day of the church’s namesake.
The Rev. Jose Magana said he decided to bring out the relic this year, on the 780th anniversary of the death of St. Anthony, because many of his parishioners have lost hope in the rough economy.
Magana said the relic is priceless and deeply symbolic to his parish.
“It’s our history, so it’s irreplaceable,’’ Magana said. “It belongs to the church, not just the church here in Long Beach, but the entire Catholic Church.’’
The church opened at 6 a.m., and when Magana turned to the relic during the 9 a.m. Mass, it had disappeared. Magana could hear his parishioners gasp when they realized it was gone, but he continued with the service and called police immediately afterward.
Long Beach police Lieutenant Paul Arcala said the relic is housed in a 16-inch-tall reliquary case with angel-shaped handles made of gold and silver on either side.
Police were looking for a person who was seen at all five Masses on Sunday and was unusually curious about the relic, Arcala said.