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Hate charge considered in Jam. Hill statue theft

Police were investigating the disappearance last weekof San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila as a hate crime after the statue bearing that saint's likeness was sawed off at the ankles and carried away from its Jamaica Hill home.

The fiberglass statue was produced in the Philippines and shipped to the San Lorenzo Ruiz Center, a Filipino religious organization at 168-41 84th Ave., three years ago. Until some time early last week, the statue adorned the right hand front yard at the center, which has existed since 1980 and has until now gained members by word of mouth.

Nick Libramonte, the center's director, and several congregants said the theft must have taken place between May 5 and 6, because the building was vacant between 6:30 p.m. on the Monday and the 4:30 p.m. novena the following day. The congregants are beside themselves, Libramonte said.

"We're trying to control them," he said. "In my heart I'm angry, but I try not to show it."

San Lorenzo Ruiz is the first Filipino saint. He was martyred in Japan in 1637 after he refused to renounce his faith. His temples were slit and he was hung from a gallows by his ankles for days before he died, a fact that is particularly upsetting because the statue was sawed from its pedestal at the ankles.

City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) called a news conference last Thursday to denounce the theft and ask for the public's help.

"This community is in mourning," he said. "We pledge to replace the statue, and we are working with the NYPD hate crimes unit. If anybody knows anyone who did this atrocity, come forward and tell the police."

Libramonte was more interested in getting the statue back in its rightful place.

"To the party who did this thing, please return it to us," he asked.

The spiritual center draws Filipinos from the entire tri-state area to pray and celebrate religious festivals and milestones, and its operating budget is derived from donations, Libramonte said. All the decorations in the chapels are imported from the Philippines, from the reproduction of San Lorenzo Ruiz in traditional garb to the various Saint Mary statues, he said.

The two statues in the front yard besides the purloined San Lorenzo Ruiz, there is an intact statue of the Blessed J.B. Scalabrini, patron saint of migrants are made of bronze-coated fiberglass in the Philippines and shipped to Queens.

"Please bring it back. Just leave at our door," said congregant Evan Prado.

Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at achristodoulides@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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