Parishioners at several New Jersey churches are distraught about a string of creche crimes: the theft of baby Jesus statues.
Statues of the infant have been taken from five churches since Christmas Eve, according to the Archdiocese of Newark.
Parishioners at St. Clare Church in Clifton reacted with dismay Sunday after a baby Jesus statue was apparently stolen from the church's outdoors nativity scene overnight.
The statue disappeared between 7 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. Sunday, according to Father Peter Galbik. The small figure had just been purchased this holiday season.
"We are deeply disturbed that some group or person stole the baby Jesus from the outdoor nativity last night ... on the second day of Christmas," said a message posted on the church's website. "Let us continue to pray for the conversion of sinners, most especially those that did this act."
Police are working to determine what happened. The church, meanwhile, is asking people to post photographs of the statue on Facebook.
Baby Jesus statues have also been pilfered from creches at Our Lady of Sorrow and St. Celia, both in Kearny, Sacred Heart in Lyndhurst and Queen of Peace in North Arlington, according to the archdiocese.
"This is nonsensical and very sad that someone would look to do this not just because it's Christmas, but anytime," said James Goodness, archdiocese spokesman.
Goodness said he hopes the statues will be returned.
"This is a jubilee year for mercy and we hope people will have a change of heart," he said.