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Hearts Are Broken: Statue Of Jesus Stolen From Williamsburg Church

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Who swiped their savior?

That's what members of one Brooklyn church are asking after a thief stole a statue of Jesus. People in the area told CBS 2's Elise Finch they can't believe someone would do something like that just days before Christmas.

Wreaths, bows and other decorations adorn homes on South 3rd Street in Williamsburg. They're all clear signs of the season celebrating the birth of Christ.

But the statue of Christ, himself, that stood outside a nearby church is gone, torn from its base in the middle of the night.

"Part of the charm of this block is this statue and this whole area with the church and we just noticed it immediately," resident Angelo Ruth said.

"It's a shame. It's one damn shame," Louise Gergel added.

"They don't have no heart at all because to do that is a sin," Myrna Troche said.

"I think it's just a really stupid thing to do," Anya Metcalf added.

Made of white porcelain, the statue of the "Sacred Heart of Jesus" sat on a pedestal outside the rectory of Saints Peter and Paul Church for more than a decade. Now, the 1,500-person congregation is upset.

"It's a sign of the presence of God among his people. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is one of the most famous expressions of religious devotion in our Catholic world," Rev. Manuel de Jesus Rodriguez said.

"We are concerned more for the people. We like to leave our two churches open the whole day for people to come to have some quiet time of prayer. Our two churches are full of statues and religious symbols so we really don't like to think that this is kind of an announcement that a religious attack is happening," Rodriguez added.

At nearly 4-feet high, the statue would have been quite heavy but surveillance cameras caught a lone thief carrying it away.

No one is sure why.

"I mean what would you do with something like that anyway, put it in your house? It makes absolutely no sense," said Peter Caine of Williamsburg.

CBS 2's Finch has learned that while the statue is obviously very meaningful, it's not worth a lot of money, so this could just be an awful prank. However, police are investigating the theft as a possible hate crime.

"We are trying to do our best to cooperate with authorities to make sure our neighborhood is safe," Rodriguez said.

Christmas celebrations will go on as planned, but hearts are heavy without the Sacred Heart people here must now do without.

One of the NYPD's Hate Crimes units is investigating but has yet to rule it an actual hate crime. There was no word on if or when the church will replace the statue.

"We are not really interested in persecuting anybody," Rodriguez said in a message to the thieves. "We want, if possible, our statue back and if not try please to not do that again because this is certainly not a nice thing to do."

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