A relic that Roman Catholics believe contains a piece of the original crucifix and was stolen from a Boston cathedral has been returned in Vermont by a transient — who then disappeared while church officials tried to verify its authenticity.
Officials are searching for the man, who handed the artifact over to Vermont State Police on Aug. 9. Meanwhile, the Boston Archdiocese is rejoicing at its reappearance.
"Our prayers have been answered as the Relic of the True Cross has been recovered," Terrence Donilon, an archdiocese spokesman said Monday.
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross has held a prayer service each week for its return and plans to hold a ceremony Wednesday to welcome it back.
The relic contains a piece of wood inside a round brass case about 2 inches across, police said. The church believes the wood is from the cross on which Jesus was crucified. The back of the case has a seal stamped with the pope's ring.
A janitor at the cathedral noticed the panel covering a small glass box containing the relic had been pried open and the item stolen. Authorities think it was taken from the cathedral's inner chapel sometime between 10 a.m. June 30 and 8 a.m. July 1.
Church officials called the relic priceless but estimated its street value at $2,300 to $3,800.
It was a gift in the 18th century to the Rev. Jean-Louis Lefebvre de Cheverus, who later became Boston's first bishop.
Vermont State Police are looking for Earl Frost, 34 who turned it in. Authorities say he came to their attention when his partner, Richard Duncan, of Royalton, called to report a domestic fight with him.
Duncan told police he had information authorities should know but said it should come from Frost. Frost then told troopers the fight was over a stolen religious artifact that he wanted to return to the church - not to police, officials said.
Troopers persuaded the two men to take the item to the State Police barracks in Royalton, but police weren't sure of its authenticity because there had been false reports about its recovery. Church officials were unable to travel to Royalton until Saturday to verify it was the real thing.
Frost told police he had gotten it from someone in Rhode Island and had been talking to a priest at the Boston cathedral about returning it.
The church offered forgiveness.
"God has blessed us with His love and capacity to forgive," Donilon said. "We prayerfully carry on His call for forgiveness for those responsible."
This program aired on August 16, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.