A Southern California congregation is praying for the return of a more than 100-year-old stolen crucifix taken from an Oxnard church for the second time in two decades.
A man with a shaved head and bushy mustache entered Santa Clara Catholic Church in the 300 block of South E Street on Wednesday afternoon and left with the crucifix, according to a news release by the Oxnard Police Department.
The 110-year-old crucifix is made of bronze and is of significant sentimental value to the church, according to the release.
"We miss it, you know, it has been with us for so long so it's part of our journey, part of our lives," Father Marco Ortiz said.
Officials were worried that whoever stole the church fixture would try to sell it. The crucifix is worth about $1,000, police said.
Church members attending choir practice told NBC4 Thursday night that news of the theft was "heartbreaking" and sacrilegious."
"Unfortunately some people do not uphold anything sacred. For us Christians the crucifix is just a beautiful celebration of the love and forgiveness of God," Ortiz said. "And for someone not to even value (or) respect that belief, you know, it really hurts us."
The same crucifix was stolen from the church 20 years ago and later recovered, Oxnard Police Detective Lucy Buttell said. A man had snatched it and tried to sell it in town before it was recognized and brought back to the church.
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The man suspected of stealing the crucifix is described as Hispanic, in his 30s, 5 feet 9 inches tall and 170 pounds, police said. He was captured in a grainy surveillance image (shown at right).
Ortiz said he doesn't want to press any charges against the man, he just wants the cross returned to the church.
A $1,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the burglar. Anyone with information can contact the police department at 805-385-7740.
Gadi Schwartz contributed to this report.