Joven, who heads the Parish Pastoral Council of San Guillermo Parish of Bacolor and who also serves as member of the Tangible Heritage Committee of ACCH, reported his find to diocesan church authorities as the image surfaced in the antiques market, days after it was reported to be missing.
The Infant Jesus was stolen as the Betis community was celebrating its parish fiesta. Ivory parts of the image (particularly the head, hands, and feet) went up for sale in the antiques market in Manila not long after. Joven intimates that he spent ₱167,000 to be able to retrieve and secure the image and is ready to turn it over any moment to the parish priest of Saint James Parish in Betis Church, Guagua. The image was handed to him in a small plastic bag minus the body and the hairpiece.
ACCH denounces the theft and trafficking of stolen religious icons and other church treasures. In recent years, this illegal trade has been carried out with alarming boldness and shamelessness. In cases like this, some unscrupulous entities are bound to make easy money. It is most unfortunate that they choose to ignore the fact that what make religious icons priceless and precious are the historical, cultural and spiritual meanings that Catholic devotees attach to such symbols of their faith.
ACCH commits itself to helping curb the illegal trade of stolen religious icons and other church treasures. We vow to cooperate with authorities to minimize the threat of losing more church goods to thieves. In this regard, we enjoin all parishes of the Archdiocese of San Fernando to:
1. Undertake a parish-wide inventory and documentation of all church goods and properties;
2. Institute security measures (e.g. installation of CCTV cameras/alarms or hiring of security guards) that can help deter theft of these goods;
3. Remind parishioners to be more vigilant in protecting the material treasures/tangible heritage of their respective parishes;
Our gratitude to antique collectors, media entities, netizens, heritage workers,and to everyone who offered leads and prayers, and who helped spread the word about the theft of the image.
Photos and text from Most Rev. Pablo Virgilio S. David, D.D., Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of San Fernando.