It sounds like something out of a Dan Brown novel: A church in San Francisco has a fragment of the “True Cross,” upon which Jesus Christ himself was crucified, and last week it was lost in a brazen heist.
That’s the story coming out of St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in Lower Pacific Heights, where on Sunday during Mass the Rev. Michael Hurley told parishioners, “This past Thursday, the church was robbed of a very sacred item,” according to KGO. “The True Cross is a relic that goes back 2,000 years to the very cross of Christ himself. For it to be stolen in this kind of very deliberate way is certainly both upsetting and very saddening.”
Hurley told KGO whomever stole the small piece of wood, which had been fashioned into a cross shape itself, broke the lock on the box containing it but left behind the centuries-old wax seal. Hurley also said the church will accept the cross’s return with no questions asked.
Stolen! Sacred relic taken from St. Dominic’s church in SF. Believed to be part of Christ’s crucifixion cross. pic.twitter.com/MM4hWYfBg0
— Cbarnard (@CornellBarnard) August 21, 2016
Parishioners who spoke with KGO naturally were upset by the news, and there’s not much police can do since no one witnessed the theft and the church has no cameras that might’ve caught someone in the act. However, any attempt to sell the relic would certainly raise more than a few inquisitive eyebrows.
The story of the True Cross is steeped in legend and lore. It was apparently unearthed in Jerusalem in 326 C.E. by St. Helena, the mother of Roman Emperor Constantine, who was the first emperor to embrace Christianity. Helena had the thing carved up before returning to Europe, leaving some pieces in Jerusalem and taking some with her.
Since then, some testing has been done on the purported fragments, but it’s unclear if any of them are real. For one thing, some pieces are made from olive wood, while the story goes the original was made out of pine. It’s also easy to find eBay listings of the relic.
But regardless of whether the wood is really 2,000-plus years old and once carried the weight of Jesus Christ himself, it’s clear the small cross is important to the church and its parishioners. It’s a symbol of their beliefs, and its meaning is incalculable. As one parishioner told KGO, “It’s like a piece of our little heart has been just pulled out.”
And they just want it back, no questions asked. The thief or thieves have been given a chance at redemption here; all they have to do now is see the light.