Indian priest gets stabbed in robbery at parish house just weeks after arrival
Published 23/07/2015 | 02:30
An Indian priest who only arrived in Ireland two weeks ago to provide pilgrimage cover has been stabbed and beaten during a brutal robbery.
Father Dominic Savio, from the Tamil region of India, was left deeply shocked by his ordeal after being held at knifepoint by two burglars who broke into his Portlaoise parish house.
Incredibly, the courageous priest defied his injuries and trauma to celebrate 10am Mass the following day at Ratheniska.
The attack, in which the young priest was lucky to escape with only cuts to his hands and neck, followed a brutal and unprovoked attack on a UK tourist in Dublin's city centre just hours after he arrived here on holiday.
Dafydd Hughes (45) from Cheltenham in England, had a bottle smashed over his head as he tried to protect his children at a bus stop on O'Connell Street from an aggressive and drunk man.
The unrelated incidents have raised public concerns over the levels of wanton violence in Irish society.
However, Fr Dominic said he will not let the shocking experience alter his impression of life in Ireland.
"I like Ireland, the people have been very friendly towards me and I hope to continue my work here," he said.
Fr Dominic is currently pursuing his studies in both Rome and Ireland.
He arrived in Portlaoise earlier this month to provide clerical cover for two local priests, Fr George Augustine and Fr Paddy Byrne, who are away with the annual parish pilgrimage to Lourdes.
Gardai suspect the two burglars may have initially believed the parish house in Portlaoise was empty.
However, when Fr Dominic Savio opened the door at 11.30pm last Saturday evening, the raiders violently pushed him back inside, held him at knifepoint and demanded cash.
They took a small quantity of cash from the priest, as well as his mobile phone.
They believed further parish money was on the premises and angrily demanded it.
One grabbed him by the neck and, holding the knife to his throat, forced him upstairs as they searched for the non-existent cash. In the struggle, Fr Dominic suffered cuts to both his hands and neck.
Both men later fled and Fr Dominic was eventually able to raise the alarm via an Indian family he had been introduced to in Portlaoise.
He was treated at Portlaoise General Hospital for cuts and bruises.
Monsignor John Byrne described the incident as "truly shocking" and said the young cleric had been "absolutely terrorised".
"It is a terrible thing to happen, but the Portlaoise community has rallied to support Fr Dominic Savio and show that this is not typical for either this area or Ireland," he said.
Monsignor Byrne said parishioners felt "very embarrassed" that such a thing could happen within their community.
However, he said he took "great heart" from the flood of sympathy, support and offers of help directed towards the young priest via parish offices and 'The Laois Nationalist'.
"He has been greatly moved by the outpouring of support and I know he is hoping to continue his work here. It is a very distressing thing to happen," Monsignor Byrne added.
Portlaoise gardai are currently investigating and have described the incident as "very serious".