PRIESTS have been warned to take extra precautions and not to leave any money in their parochial houses after several were burgled – mostly while priests were saying Mass.
An archdiocese has warned all of its priests to be on the alert for thieves after a number of parochial homes were broken into.
In most cases, the homes of priests were targeted while they were serving Mass in their parish church.
Up to 80 priests in 46 parishes across Tipperary and Limerick have now been instructed to improve security at their homes by the Cashel and Emly diocesan office.
Gardai in Tipperary are continuing to investigate a number of burglaries which occurred in recent weeks in parochial houses across the county.
An archdiocesan spokesman said they sent a memo to all priests to be extra vigilant and take proper precautions on the advice of the gardai following a spate of robberies.
Parochial houses in Boherlahan, Ballingarry, Bansha, Holycross, Lattin, Drangan and three in Cashel have all been targeted by culprits.
As well as breaking into homes, the thieves have also broken into some priests' cars.
Fr Michael Hickey, from Bansha, Co Tipperary, told the Irish Independent that his home was broken into by thieves last November.
The parochial house is equipped with CCTV and an alarm, but failed to deter the thieves.
"I've two Masses on a Saturday evening and when I was going from one church to another they came in here," said Fr Hickey.
"They slipped something into one of the windows and burst up the catch and lifted the windows.
"I have cameras and an alarm here but there was no joy in catching them. They kept their faces away from the cameras," he said.
"It was at 7.50pm and the alarm went off. They were only in the house a short time and before anybody answered the alarm, they were gone," Fr Hickey added.
A small sum of money was taken during the robbery.
"The very same night, they went to three priests' houses in Cashel," Fr Hickey said.
On the night of December 16, thieves unsuccessfully attempted to break into the home of Fr Tom Breen in Holycross.
They left empty-handed when Fr Breen disturbed the intruders.
"They busted the window and the door in the parochial house but they left without entering the premises," Fr Breen said. "I was one of the lucky ones," he added.
Separately, gardai in Limerick are continuing to investigate the robbery of €5,000 from the church sacristy in Ballyagran, Co Limerick.
Thieves forced their way into the church through two doors and ransacked the sacristy before stealing the contents of the church safe.
The incident was discovered last week by the parish sacristan.