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Our Lady of Fatima statue stolen from Catholic church in NJ found, arrest made

The statue of Our Lady of Fatima was returned to St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in Gibbsboro, N.J., Sept. 7, 2022./ Msgr. Louis Marucci

Tears were flowing from the faces of parishioners at St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in Gibbsboro, New Jersey, when they saw their pastor bring into the adoration chapel on Wednesday the parish’s beloved Our Lady of Fatima statue, which was stolen last week. 

“I was just bringing it back in to re-enthrone her for tomorrow,” Msgr. Louis Marucci, the pastor, told CNA Sept. 7. “And I could hear the visible expressions of people in tears, and I turned around and I thought that the faith of people is really just a beautiful experience.”

After the statue was stolen Aug. 30, Marucci said that he was praying that it would be returned before Sept. 8: The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the day on which the parish always holds a litany of prayers from sunup to sundown in honor of Mary. 

However, he said that the short time frame seemed impossible for the police to find the thief and recover the statue.

Marucci said, however, that on the morning of Sept. 7, a police detective called him and told him: “I want you to know that the statue of the Blessed Mother is coming home.”

“That was the phrase he used,” Marucci said, “and I was just really moved by that.”

Gibbsboro Police announced Sept. 7 that 64-year-old Robert Adelman of Woodbury, about 15 miles from Gibbsboro, has been arrested and charged with the theft and was placed on a summons. Police had no other details about his motives or a future court date.

Marucci praised the police for their efforts in finding the suspect. 

He also said that the parish’s security system and cameras were instrumental in capturing footage of the suspect in that act. 

Marucci credited a $50,000 grant that was given to the parish by the Department of Homeland Security after Marucci applied for the grant for technology upgrades several years ago. 

“I would strongly advise every house of worship … to apply [for the grant],” Marucci said. “Churches are soft targets for terrorist activity.”

Catholic churches have been the target of dozens of attacks across the nation in recent years — but especially in recent months, since news that Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that federally legalized abortion, would be overturned.

Marucci said the Our Lady of Fatima statue is from Portugal and is one of four specific replicas in existence. He said the 3.5-foot-tall statue holds immense spiritual and symbolic significance. He said that the crown of the statue includes a replica of the bullet that is placed in the original Our Lady of Fatima statue in Portugal. (Pope John Paul II placed the bullet in the crown of the original statue on the one-year anniversary of the May 13, 1981, assassination attempt on his life during his visit to thank Our Lady for saving his life.)

Marucci said that police departments that were involved with the investigation will attend the parish’s 8 a.m. Mass Sept. 8. He plans to bless the statue then. 

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