The archdiocese said the statue is historically and culturally priceless. The archdiocese said the statue is historically and culturally priceless.

Search for stolen religious sculpture goes international

The state archbishop remains hopeful that the sculpture is still in Mexico and can be recovered

Authorities have notified Interpol of the theft of a much-loved and valuable religious sculpture from a San Luis Potosí church due to fears it may have been taken out of the country to be sold on the black market.

A Guatemalan-made wooden sculpture of Joseph and the baby Jesus was stolen from a church in the municipality of Villa de Reyes in the early hours of last Saturday. Revered by parishioners, the 18th century piece could sell for as much as 150,000 pesos (US $7,300), according to state authorities.

The San Luis Potosí Attorney General’s Office said in a statement that it was the responsibility of its federal counterpart to investigate the crime, but added that it was collaborating on efforts to recover the sculpture, which was stolen from the central niche in the Bledos parish church.

The church was built in the 18th century by Bledos hacienda owner Juan Manuel de la Sierra, who commissioned the Joseph sculpture.

State Attorney General José Luis Ruiz Contreras said Tuesday that an Interpol notice was in the process of being generated. He said it was unclear whether the sculpture was stolen by thieves dedicated to the commercialization of religious relics.

San Luis Potosí Archbishop Jorge Alberto Cavazos Arizpe noted Wednesday that authorities had notified Interpol about the theft and said he remained hopeful that the sculpture hadn’t been taken out of the country and could be recovered. He also said that the Catholic Church was maintaining ongoing communication with investigators.

Thieves also got away with the church’s most valuable chalice, according to church authorities in Villa de Reyes.

The theft of religious art has increased significantly in Mexico during the past decade, according to the Catholic Multimedia Center. San Luis Potosí is one of the states most affected by the crime.

With reports from Pulso and El Universal 

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