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780-year-old religious relic stolen from Long Beach Catholic church

June 13, 2011 |  5:40 pm

A 780-year-old religious relic that is displayed annually as a tribute to St. Anthony was stolen from a Long Beach Catholic church, police and church officials said Monday.

The theft was reported at 9:30 a.m. Monday at St. Anthony Church, near the intersection of 6th Street and Olive Avenue, according to a statement issued by the Long Beach Police Department. There is a person of interest in the case.

Officials with the Los Angeles Archdiocese said that the 16-inch relic of St. Anthony, housed in a gold and silver casing with figures of angels on the side, was taken from a church cabinet.

In Catholicism, St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost or missing things. The relic was stolen on the anniversary of St. Anthony's death 780 years ago, church officials said.

The relic is displayed only once a year in honor of St. Anthony and was given to the church named for him when it was first established 110 years ago. St. Anthony's was the first Catholic Church in Long Beach and served the entire city.

Long Beach police said the person of interest in this case is an unidentified heavy-set Latina woman in her 30s, about 5 feet to 5 feet 3, with dark, wavy, unkempt hair. Witnesses told police she was acting suspiciously in the church the day before the theft.

Detectives ask that anyone with information about the case contact Long Beach Police Department burglary detectives at (562) 570-5590 or anonymously via text or Web via the department's website, www.longbeach.gov/police.

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-- Andrew Blankstein (on Twitter via @anblanx)