Thief snatches ornate St Brigid shrine from altar of church
A THIEF stole a rare and valuable shrine, which normally contains a relic of St Brigid, as parishioners prepared for the patron saint's feast day.
The shrine was taken from a church shortly after a funeral Mass had been celebrated there.
The reliquary, an ornate container for relics, had been bolted to the altar at St Brigid's Church in Killester, north Dublin.
It is worth around €10,000, and was fashioned in the style of St Patrick's Bell, with a distinctive Celtic cross. It was stolen between 12.30pm and 3pm on Monday, two days before today's feast of St Brigid.
The relic, said to be part of the cheekbone of St Brigid, who died early in the 6th Century, was not in the shrine at the time.
The congregation at the funeral Mass had left for the burial when the thief struck. The church was open to the public at the time.
The bone fragment, along with the reliquary, was donated to the church in 1928.
"We had just had the reliquary cleaned, so luckily the relic wasn't in it at the time. It was renovated and quite shiny and in fact that might have been what drew the person to it," parish priest Msgr Alex Stenson told the Irish Independent.
The relic has been kept in a safe and parishioners can be blessed with it today.
It is believed that three Irish knights brought St Brigid's carefully preserved skull to Portugal during the Crusades in the 1200s, where it was placed in a church at Lumiar, outside Lisbon, and where it remains.
The cardinal of Lisbon presented a small portion of the relic to Killester parish in 1928 when it was decided to dedicate the local church to her.
The late Cardinal Tomas O Fiaich, who had a devotion to St Brigid, often travelled to Killester to pray before the relic.
Footage from a CCTV camera showed a man entering the church at around 12.30pm on Monday and leaving with a bag.
Anyone with information is asked to contact gardai at Raheny 01-6664300, the garda confidential line 1-800-666111 or any garda station.
Last October a relic said to be from the cross of Jesus was stolen from Holycross Abbey, near Thurles, Co Tipperary. It was returned earlier this month.