Manitoba

Stolen statue head returned to Winnipeg Ukrainian Catholic church

Just as mysteriously as it disappeared, the head from a statue has been returned to a Winnipeg church.

Left on church doorstep, wrapped in garbage bag

The head cut off and stolen from a statue of St. Volodymyr at the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Sts. Vladimir & Olga this week has been returned. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Just as mysteriously as it disappeared, the head from a statue has been returned to a Winnipeg church.

The statue of St. Volodymyr at the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Sts. Vladimir and Olga on McGregor Street was found headless early Tuesday morning.

The missing head was found wrapped up in a garbage bag at the front door of the cathedral around noon Saturday, said Right Rev. Monsignor Michael Buyachok.

"I guess somebody maybe had a guilty feeling after reading all the items in the paper and seeing it on the television," he said when reached by phone later Saturday afternoon.

"Or it was left somewhere and somebody picked it up and brought it over to us — we don't know how it got here.

"It was a mystery how it disappeared and it's a greater mystery how it came back."

Who ever removed the statue's head in the first place also made off with the top and bottom of its staff, and those parts have not been recovered, said Buyachok.

Irreplaceable head

Buyachok said church officials plan to search around the church to see if the other missing pieces were left somewhere nearby as well, but added those parts can be replaced.

Repairing the statue without the head would have been a different story because there are no casts or moulds left of the Leo Mol original, he said.

"The head was the big question," he said.

Right Rev. Monsignor Michael Buyachok calls the return of the stolen head a blessing. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

The statue, which was created by well-known Winnipeg sculptor Leo Mol, was blessed by Pope John Paul II in 1984, and depicts a significant saint for Ukrainian Catholics who accepted Christianity in Ukraine in 988 when he was a prince, Buyachok said.

Winnipeg police say they're still investigating the vandalism and theft.

Buyachok credits media coverage of the crime for the quick return of the head and says since the story made the news the church was contacted by a man who worked with Leo Mol who offered to repair the statue free of charge.

Pope John Paul II blessed the statue in 1984, shown in this shot from the CBC archives. (CBC)

Buyachok hopes that the statue can be reheaded by the end of the summer.

"We're glad it came back after a week of excitement and now we'll just have to reconstruct it and see what we can do with it," he said. 

"It ended well, thank God for that." 

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