Suspect returns controversial sculpture to Manhattan cathedral with note

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Monday, December 11, 2023
Suspect returns controversial religious sculpture with note on why he took it
Kemberly Richardson has more on the investigation.

MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, Manhattan (WABC) -- Police are looking for the man who removed a sculpture from a cathedral in Morningside Heights earlier this month before returning it with a note.

The incident happened at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine on Dec. 3. Officials say the man took the 5-foot-tall sculpture but returned an hour later on the loading dock with a note saying it should be be in God's house.

The sculpture, called Christa, has a long history of being controversial.

Officials with the cathedral say the sculpture represents Christ in the female form and is reflective of its mission to be a house of prayer for all people.

"This wasn't taken because of its monetary value, it was taken for him because it was theologically offensive," said Father Patrick Malloy.

Malloy said he does not hold a grudge against the suspect, but there are rules that should be followed.

"To be clear: The sculpture is an integral part of our collection and an important symbol," cathedral officials said. "Representing Christ in the female form, it also illustrates how Christ is manifested in any person, of any gender, race, ethnicity or sexuality. The sculpture very much belongs in the Cathedral, and is reflective of our mission to be a house of prayer for all people."

The NYPD released surveillance images of the person of interest.

The statue is being examined by an art expert. It was not damaged and as soon as police make an arrest it will be returned to the alter.

The sculpture first came to the Cathedral in 1984 on loan and was removed from display after six weeks due to international outcry.

It was given to the cathedral by the sculptor, Edwina Sandys, in 2016 and has been on permanent display ever since.

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