Cross stolen from Arizona church remains missing; parish prays for answers

1 min read
This crucifix seen on the altar of St. Patrick's Church in Bisbee, Ariz., in an undated photo remains missing after being stolen sometime Oct. 17, 2023. Parish officials said the 24-inch-by-18-inch crucifix, which rested above the tabernacle, was present the morning of Oct. 16 and well into Oct. 17 following the 7:30 a.m. Mass. (OSV News photo/Jennifer Ratkovich, courtesy Diocese of Tucson)

BISBEE, Ariz. (OSV News) — A church community in rural Arizona is praying for answers more than a week after someone stole a crucifix from the altar at St. Patrick’s Church in Bisbee.

The crucifix rested above the tabernacle and was present the morning of Oct. 16 and well into Oct. 17 following the 7:30 a.m. Mass. Soon after that church leaders say it disappeared.

The crucifix is brass plated and measures 24 inches by 18 inches. It’s believed to have been in the parish for nearly 40 years. Father Greg Adolf, the canonical pastor, said the crucifix is more than a symbol in the church.

“The crucifix on the main altar has been the centerpiece of the neo-Gothic altar and has witnessed every important event in the life of its dedicated parishioners for over a century,” he said. “The theft of this beautiful crucifix has touched everyone in the community, not just the parishioners.”

The church is working closely with the Bisbee Police Department to ensure the crucifix is returned.

Crucifix theft is violation of the sacred

Longtime parishioner and volunteer Mary Gomez said, “This has nothing to do with the actual monetary value of our crucifix. It’s about the violation of our sacred place of worship.”

The parish has fielded numerous calls from parishioners who are praying for swift resolution. Pleas on the parish social media accounts have been shared hundreds of times giving many hope that the crucifix will be safely returned.

The historic church, built in 1917, was one of the first parishes in the Diocese of Tucson. St. Patrick’s Church serves Catholics in southeastern Arizona, a 20-minute drive from the Mexican border. The parish is often a tourist destination for the thousands who visit the historic mining community each year.

St. Patrick’s, with contributions from many in the community, recently completed the restoration of the stained-glass windows, considered one of the most beautiful collections in Arizona. The historic windows and neo-Gothic interior draw many visitors throughout the year.

Since the theft the church began locking its doors outside of scheduled Masses and other church services. The crucifix has temporarily been replaced with another from a nearby parish.

Father Adolf said the church is more than a beacon of faith for Catholics in rural Arizona.

“St. Patrick’s has become an important stop for modern-day pilgrims and a spiritual center for the wider community, always opened and welcoming,” he told New Outlook, the diocesan online news outlet. “That we would be forced to lock our doors to protect the beauty within, is very difficult for everyone to accept.”

New Outlook is the online news outlet of the Diocese of Tucson.

OSV News

OSV News is a national and international wire service reporting on Catholic issues and issues that affect Catholics.