Firefighters have rescued a 300-year-old Catholic statue from a fire at Shrine of Christ the King, and the clergy are taking it as a sign the congregation too will go on.
Early Wednesday morning, a fire started on the second floor of the church at 6415 S. Woodlawn Ave. when rags used to apply floor stain spontaneously combusted, according to the Chicago Fire Department.
The building is more than a church; it houses the 300-year-old statue of Christ the Child from Seville, Spain, as part of its duties as a place of pilgrimage for Catholics.
Priests at the shrine, who all escaped the fire unharmed, asked firefighters if they could rescue the statue, and at noon firefighters carried the 3-foot-tall statue down the front steps of the shrine after retrieving it from where it was still standing on the central altar.
“Even with all the jet streams, he was not knocked down,” said the Rev. Michael Stein, a canon at the shrine. “He is three centuries old and he did not go up in flames.”
The priests took it as a sign that the church can and will rebuild as the last Catholic house of worship in Woodlawn.
The statue did lose an arm, and its vestments were covered in ash, but Stein pointed out that the statue’s remaining hand was still held up in a sign of blessing: “That he was saved shows our story isn’t over here, he’s still with us, his hand is still raised in blessing,” Stein said.
The statue is part of the monthly ceremonies at the shrine and is carried around the sanctuary during a processional blessing the children of the parish.
“We take it as a sign of God that our presence in this community should continue,” said Rev. Matthew Talarico, also a canon at the shrine. “We’re not starting over, it’s just another chapter.”
Talarico said the congregation’s needs would become clearer in the coming days.
“People can pray for us,” Talarico said. “We’re going to continue holding mass — we’re not going to skip a beat.”
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