NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The pastor of a Manhattan church is praying for the return of a valuable religious painting that police said was stolen by a man who was seen on surveillance video taking the icon.
It happened around 12:30 p.m. back on Sunday, May 8 at Saint Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church on Wadsworth Avenue.
The surveillance video captures the man as he looks right into the camera, glances down at the church hall before he appears to make the sign of the cross, CBS2's Janelle Burrell reported.
Police said he then takes off his jacket and, out of view of the camera, puts on gloves before swiping one of the hand-painted religious icons and walking out.
"Our people were downstairs a matter of 20 feet away, so it was rather courageous of this man to come in with the church full and swipe it right in front of our eyes," said Father Evagoras Constantinides, who presides over the church.
He pointed out an icon similar to the one stolen, which police said is worth about $5,000.
"This isn't just gold paint. This is 24-karat gold leaf all the way around," he said.
Church President Lydia Vagelos-Callimanis believes the man knew exactly what he wanted.
"We knew it was not a parishioner," she told WCBS 880's Marla Diamond. "He moved in rather slowly and walked out very quickly."
Father Constantinides said the man is actually a face familiar to people in the neighborhood and the church.
"He's come into the office, asked to use the bathroom," he said.
Some neighborhood residents were surprised after watching the surveillance video of the incident.
"That's pretty bold," said resident John Epinosa. "Pretty bold for somebody to come into a place of worship and do that."
Father Constantinides isn't sure whether the man, believed to be about 65, knows the icon's value. But he said he won't be disheartened, 1010 WINS' Glenn Schuck reported.
"We deal with people who, unfortunately are going through all sorts of things every single day," he said. "I can just pray that the icon returns where it belongs and that this gentleman will get whatever help and whatever solace he's looking for."
Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782), visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.
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