Sunday 28 May 2017

Priest calls church robbery 'devastating' as consecrated communion stolen and altar damaged

St. Michael's Church, Shroid, Longford
St. Michael's Church, Shroid, Longford

Kathy Armstrong

A priest has admitted it was "devastating" to discover his church had been raided and several items were robbed, including a tabernacle containing consecrated communion.

It emerged yesterday that thieves had ransacked St Michael's Church in Shroid, Co Longford, leaving the altar damaged and several things were taken.

Parish Priest Fr Tony Gilhooly said told RTE Radio One that the incident put a dampener on the easter ceremonies.

He said: "When the news filtered through yesterday morning I thought to myself that we'd been here on Holy Saturday night and with me were my colleagues and Bishop Francis.

St. Michael's Church, Shroid, Longford
St. Michael's Church, Shroid, Longford

"We had a cup of tea after the Easter vigil and we thanked God about how well the ceremonies went so well and were so prayerful for us and the congregation.

"And then to wake up and to hear this news on Easter Sunday morning was devastating."

Speaking to Marty Morrissey on RTE Radio One he said that it's particularly upsetting that the tabernacle is gone and he is appealing for it to be returned.

He said: "The tabernacle is worth money for whatever metal is in it.

"The second thing is, and I hate to say this but it contained the consecrated host, if you're of the Catholic tradition you'll know what that means.

"There would have been a number of consecrated hosts in it because mass was celebrated there on Palm Sunday.

"We wouldn't have had mass there over Holy Week because mass done in our central cathedral, St Mel's.

"I'm sure what they're after money and they'll want to turn what they see as an asset into money, otherwise it's going to be of no great use to them."

Read More: Bishop says break-in and theft at Irish church is 'extremely upsetting for parishioners and the clergy'

He also said that although the robbery brought back memories of the fire in St Mel's Cathedral in 2009, it was more upsetting in another way.

St. Michael's Shroid Church, Longford
St. Michael's Shroid Church, Longford

Fr Tony Gilhooly said: "The trauma of the cathedral was a huge trauma but it was different because the cathedral fire was purely accidental but nobody could call this accidental."

He also thanked his parishioners for their support, saying: "I celebrated the one o'clock mass in the cathedral and what keeps me going is the parishioners - who I know and love and said they were so sorry about Shroid and were asking how was I."

Gardai have confirmed they are probing the incident.

They said in a statement: "Gardai in Longford are investigating a robbery at St Michael's Church in Shroid, Co Longford.

"The incident was discovered shortly after 7am on Sunday morning.

"A number of items were stolen.

"A technical examination is taking place and investigations are ongoing."

Anyone with any information is urged to contact Longford Garda Station on 043 335 0570.

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