— -- San Francisco police are searching for a relic believed to trace back to 325 AD that went missing from a Catholic church on Thursday.
According to ABC San Francisco affiliate KGO, officials are investigating the disappearance of what is believed to be an ancient religious artifact from St. Dominic's Catholic Church.
The leaders of the church and local parishioners say they are praying that the artifact will be safely returned to the parish.
At mass on Sunday, Father Michael Hurley informed the congregation, "This past Thursday, the church was robbed of a very sacred item."
That item was believed to contain a fragment of the True Cross of Jesus Christ, one of the church's most treasured relics.
"The True Cross is a relic that goes back 2,000 years to the very cross of Christ himself," Hurley said. "For it to be stolen in this kind of very deliberate way is certainly both upsetting and very saddening."
According to St. Dominic's website, the relic is a "treasured place of prayer that has brought consolation to those who are weighed down by the crosses of their lives."
Parishioner Suzanne Avila told KGO, "It's just devastating." Avila said she prayed in front of the relic almost every day, adding, "It's like a piece of our little heart has been pulled out and that little heart beat is gone and we need to get it back."
There were no security cameras inside the church and no witnesses.
Authorities say there is little they can do with such few clues. "We're hoping that the thief will have a change of heart and perhaps we can discover it again and restore this important relic to our church," Father Hurley said.
In the meantime, a sign has been placed on the display case asking for someone to return the relic, no questions asked.