The centuries-old ivory image of the Child Jesus of Betis Church's Virgen de la Correa that was stolen at later surfaced in the black market.
MANILA -- Parts of the 300-year-old image of the Infant Jesus that was stolen December 30 from Betis Church have been found.
According to a statement released by the Archdiocesan Commission on Church Heritage (ACCH) of the Archdiocese of San Fernando, parts of the image were recovered with the help of Tom Joven, a religious artist.
Joven, who also heads the Parish Pastoral Council of San Guillermo Parish of Bacolor and member of the Tangible Heritage Committee of ACCH, reported his find to church authorities when the image surfaced in the antiques market after it was reported missing.
The image went missing while 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 said that he spent P167,000 to retrieve parts of the image and and will turn them over to the St. James Parish in Betis.
The image was handed to him in a small plastic bag minus the body and the hairpiece.
ACCH denounced 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," said ACCH in its statement.
"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," it added.
ACCH promised to help 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."
The ACCH also expressed its gratitude to everyone who offered leads and prayers, and those who helped spread the word about the theft of the image.