GARDAI are searching for three men who attacked a priest and hit him in the face outside his home in the early hours.
Fr Christy McCormack, parish priest at Fohenagh, Co Galway, was accosted by the men as he arrived home shortly before 1am yesterday.
One of them hit him in the face. The three then fled empty-handed and drove off in the direction of Kilconnell.
Fr McCormack spoke yesterday of his ordeal and praised the gardai's quick response.
"I was just home when it happened. I drove between the church and the parish house and I saw them. I think I surprised them," he said.
Fr McCormack said he quickly realised what the gang were up to.
"I questioned if they were there for assistance but realised they would have come to the front of the house," he said.
On getting out of his car, he was immediately hit by one of the gang, who then made off.
"I got a blow to the side of the face. The skin broke, but I'm doing fine. I'm good now. These sort of attacks seem to be escalating. I got a shock."
Gardai are appealing to anyone who was in the Fohenagh area between midnight and 1am yesterday and who saw anything suspicious to call them on 090 9631890.
The home of Canon Conor Ryan in Hospital, Co Limerick, was broken into on Saturday evening while he was away saying Mass.
As the intruders entered the property, the alarm went off.
This apparently did not deter them, as they tried to disconnect the security system, smashing parts of it in the process.
It is understood neighbours living nearby reacted to the alarm and, as they made their way to investigate, the thieves fled.
No money was inside and the culprits left empty-handed.
It is the fifth time in six months that burglars have targeted both Canon Ryan's home and the Church of St John the Baptist, which has been broken into on three separate occasions.
During one of the break-ins, thieves entered the sacristy and stole a sum of money, which had been left there by parishioners who had forgotten their belongings.
Stained-glass windows were broken during each of the three break-ins and had to be replaced.
In a neighbouring parish, thieves broke into the car of Fr Roy Donovan in Caherconlish last November and stole a sum of money.
Gardai suspect more than one gang is involved in the thefts from the parochial homes.
A Limerick gang is believed to be responsible for some of the crimes, while investigating officers are also looking at travelling gangs and a group of eastern Europeans.
At least nine parochial houses in Tipperary have been broken into or targeted by burglars in the past two months.
And gardai in the midwest region are being posted at parochial homes in a bid to prevent an epidemic of burglaries while priests are away saying Mass.