A life-size statue of Saint Antony of Padua, the patron saint of lost articles, was recently discovered missing from the San Diego de Alcala Church in Valenzuela City, (near Manila) where it has been installed for more than 50 years. The marble statue was lent to the church 50 years ago by its owners, the descendants of the revolutionary hero Pio Valenzuela, the doctor who tried to convince Jose Rizal, Philippine's national hero, while in exile in Dapitan, to lend his support, or at least advice, to the Katipunan. According to lawyer Edgardo Cruz, his client Jose A Valenzuela Jr noticed the statue missing sometime last April when he went to the church to attend Mass. He said the Valenzuela family lent the statue to San Diego De Alcala church in the early 1950s for the devotees of the patron saint of lost articles, the poor, the sick children and the starving. At first, Valenzuela thought the statue had just been moved to the second floor of the church for safekeeping, but on checking, he did not find the statue there either. Cruz added the Valenzuela family was alarmed when they received information that that its parish priest, Fr Marcelo Sanchez, allegedly sold it to an antique collector for only P150,000. On his sworn statement, chief sacristan Austin Buno, said that sometime last February at about 11.30am (local time) a certain Cris Perez arrived at the church and introduced himself as the rightful owner of the statue. "He said he had the image repaired because Holy Week was drawing near," Buno said. The sacristan told Perez that he could not take the statue without the authority of their parish priest. The sacristan left after their discussion to assist in baptismal rites scheduled for the day. When he returned, the statue was already gone. The priest, however, gave a different name for the one who allegedly borrowed the statue, a certain Cris Pineda. Cruz said they already sent a letter to Fr. Sanchez to produce the effigy, but until now, the priest has not complied with their demand. Cruz added the Valenzuela clan had also sought the assistance of Bishop Jose Oliveros of the Diocese of Malolos, but no action has been taken against Fr Sanchez. Instead, Bishop Malolos recommended that Fr Sanchez remain at his post for another six years. Fr Sanchez was designated parish priest of the San Diego de Alcala church in 2001.
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