Someone sneaked into the chapel at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and stole a statue of the Virgin Mary off the shelf, according to Portland police.

Police are trying to locate the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe that was stolen from the Roman Catholic church at 307 Congress St. The chapel is a building on the east side of the church.

At some point during the night of Sept. 17 or early on Sept. 18, somebody went into the chapel and grabbed the statue, which stands 3½ to 4 feet high and is valued at about $1,000.

Police are not sure how the break-in occurred, but said there were no signs of forced entry. The cathedral’s address is on Congress Street, but its front doors are located on Cumberland Avenue.

The statue depicts the Virgin Mary in a red dress and a blue veil with stars.

Dave Guthro, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, said a group had met in the chapel until about 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 17. Staff members who arrived at 6 a.m. the next day discovered the statue was missing.

“It’s quite strange that a 3½-foot statue would be stolen and nothing else is missing,” Guthro said. “They’re hoping whoever took it will bring it back or if it’s found, they can have it back.”

The statue is one of multiple pieces of statuary in the vestibule of the chapel, and is not the centerpiece, Guthro said.

“They’re hoping to get it back, but it’s not one of the main statues,” he said.

The theft occurred during a time of great enthusiasm among the Catholic community in the United States, which is celebrating Pope Francis’ first trip to the country.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is a representation of Mary as she appears in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, listed by Travel and Leisure as the most visited site in Catholicism.

The image recalls the story of how Mary appeared to a peasant in what is now Mexico and instructed him to gather flowers, which he stored in his cloak. When he presented the flowers to the archbishop, the story says, the stain left behind showed the image of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Police have asked anyone who may have information to call 874-8533.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: Mainehenchman