Religious order seeks to recover stolen parts of Marian statue

A replica of the image of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whose ivory head and hands were stolen in 1975, is displayed above the main altar of the Basilica of San Sebastian in Manila. (Photo by Roy Lagarde)

Missing head, hands of statue mar 400th-year festivities for Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the Philippines

 

Mark Saludes,  UCAN  Manila,  Philippines   August 16, 2017

A missing head and pair of hands is casting a shadow over the 400th-year anniversary of the arrival of Our Lady of Mount Carmel statue in the Philippines.

The Order of the Augustinian Recollects expressed hope Aug. 15 for a return of the ivory parts stolen four decades ago from the Minor Basilica of San Sebastian.

Clergy also discussed the possibility of a ransom to get back the relics before the anniversary celebration on July 16, 2018.

They addressed their appeal to an unnamed antique collector believed to be holding the artifacts.

“It will be a great gift for the Quadricentennial celebration of the arrival of the Blessed Mother (statue) to Manila,” said Father Dionisio Selma, provincial of the Augustinian Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno in the Philippines. The Augustinian Recollects were the first religious order to arrive in the Philippines and known for pioneering missionary work in the country.

“We hope that the keeper will hear our appeal and give us back the stolen parts of the Marian statue,” said Father Antonio Zabala, rector and parish priest of the basilica.

Thieves took off with the statue’s ivory parts on July 9, 1975 when the Philippines was under martial law.

Father Zabala said the order “would not press any criminal charges” nor ask questions once the relics are handed back.

“If they want us to pay for it, we are willing to gather enough funds just to bring them back to its rightful owner — the Catholic faithful,” Father Zabala added.

The statue, a gift from the Discalced Carmelite nuns of San Jose Monastery in Mexico, arrived onboard a Spanish galleon.

The devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is widespread in the Philippines.

The launch of the year-long commemoration coincides with growing concern across Asia over North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.

The image is associated with anti-nuclear proliferation efforts. In 1990 Father Emmanuel Charles McCarthy initiated a day of prayer “for forgiveness and protection’ at the New Mexico site of the first U.S. atomic bomb test called Trinity.

Every July 16 since then, the day is dedicated to prayer vigils for peace and the elimination of nuclear weapons.

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