Thief returns Jesus statue stolen from Toronto church, with apology note
The fibreglass statue called 'Whatsoever You Do,' was made by a well-known Ontario sculptor and was on loan to the church.(Handout)
Daniel Bitonti, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Thursday, December 5, 2013 7:55PM EST
A thief with a conscience has returned a religious statue to a Toronto church – along with an apology.
The life-sized Jesus sculpture had been taken on Saturday from a plinth located in front of Church of Saint Stephen-in-the-Fields at the corner of College Street and Bellevue Avenue in the Kensington Market area.
The fibreglass statue called “Whatsoever You Do,” was made by a well-known Ontario sculptor and was on loan to the church.
On Thursday morning, a church volunteer was notified by passers-by that the statue was on a stairway at the back of the church.
“And on it was a note that said ‘I’m sorry, it seemed like a good idea at the time,’” Maggie Helwig, the church’s reverend, told CTVNews.ca. “We’re so relieved it’s back – the whole community is. People have been passing by, patting its head, and coming in my office to tell me how happy they are it’s back.”
Timothy Schmalz, the statue’s sculptor, says he’s happy that the thief, or thieves, had a change of heart.
“I’m feeling great. I thought this could have been some sort of a hate crime,” he told CTVNews.ca. “It was very affirming that someone actually returned it. I couldn’t believe someone would’ve taken it in the first place, because of its subject matter. It’s a begging Jesus that’s there to make a connection towards the most marginalized people in the city”
Schmalz says he thinks the piece might have been targeted for financial gain. Just last week, Schmalz made headlines when another of his statues was blessed by Pope Francis at the Vatican.
The statue he had given to the Toronto church had only been outside the building for three months, but Schmalz said it had already become a symbol for the area’s large homeless population. He says he believes the public’s reaction after the statue was stolen – which included a makeshift memorial with flowers where the statue was originally located – was weighing on the conscience of whoever took it.
“I think immediately, or after a day or two, the person was realizing that it wasn’t just an ornament but meant a little more to people in the area,” he said. “I could just imagine him in the evening, in his living room, looking at this thing, this begging Jesus, feeling more guilty and guilty.”
Police are still unsure how someone was able to steal the 100-pound statue in the first place. Schmalz said he does give the thief credit for stealing the statue in broad daylight.
“But he also had the courage to do something good,” he said. “Kind of interesting. I love Toronto and to think even the thieves are polite enough to write ‘I’m sorry’ on the sculpture.”
Schmalz says he hopes the Toronto church will raise enough money to purchase a bronze statue of the begging Jesus to replace the returned fibreglass one.