MANILA – The Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan has confirmed that the original image of San Jacinto de Polonia is missing and has been switched with another image.

In a circular released on Friday, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas informed the faithful that the original image of San Jacinto de Polonia in the said parish has indeed been changed with another image.

“The team has concluded based on empirical data that the current image in the side retablo of the said parish church is different from the available photos of the image of the saint available from the parish archives particularly the slant of the head,” said the circular dated Aug. 17.

“Based on the chronology related to the repainting project of the image, the switching of images could have happened between the 17th of August to the 23rd of September, 2016,” it added.

The team was composed of Bishop Fidelis Layog, Fr. Rafael Cruz and Fr. Melquiades Serraon.

The archbishop also ordered the parish priest to find the missing image while commending the people who reported the missing image to the Church.

“I have mandated the parish priest to explore all means to recover the missing image of San Jacinto de Polonia in the parish church,” he said.

Villegas appealed to those who have knowledge about the missing image to return it to the parish where it rightfully belongs.

“Let me also appeal to those who have lent cooperation to the switching of the images to listen to the voice of conscience and restore the image to its rightful owner, the Catholic Church,” he said.

The archbishop also reminded the Catholic faithful and San Jacinto devotees in the parish of certain Catholic teachings pertaining to the matter that images of saints do not have intrinsic spiritual powers.

“Images, created by artistic hands, are only reminders of the holiness of God and the saints. We do not pray to images, but to the saints whom the images represent. More important than having images of saints is the imitation of their virtues,” he said.

“The Church is a patron of the arts and a custodian of history. The Church encourages artists to use arts to praise God, keeping in mind that beauty is godly. The preservation of historical records and the promotion of culture is part of the Church’s mission, too,” Villegas added.

He also reminded the people about one of the Ten Commandments is “Thou shall not steal”.

“Stealing is taking or keeping something that is not yours. All stolen things must be returned to the rightful moral owner; otherwise, the keeper of the stolen object lives in sin,” the Catholic prelate said.

“We also sin against this commandment by willfully cooperating in the act of taking or keeping stolen objects,” he added.

Villegas is hoping that the image will be returned soon to its parish.

“Time and events will tell if we will succeed in recovering the image of San Jacinto de Polonia. It is indeed a demand of Catholic morality that the image be returned,” he said.

But let us not get distracted by the missing image. Let us focus more on the missing life of virtue in our society and in the family which is but a symptom of the missing life of virtue in each one,” the Lingayen-Dagupan archbishop added. (PNA)