GARDAÍ ARE investigating the theft of two religious artefacts from a church in Co Tipperary – one of which is said to contain a part of the cross on which Jesus Christ is said to have been crucified.
The relic was one of two artefacts stolen from Holycross Abbey in Thurles at around 5pm yesterday, by two masked men carrying a portable angle grinder, a hammer and a screwdriver.
The relic was part of a silver artefact, dating from the 14th century and measuring around 12 inches in height, which comprised of a cross with two crossbars and two dark stones hanging from a chain.
A second artefact – a freestanding 12-inch cross, made from gold and bronze with a centrepiece used to hold communion host – was also taken in the raid.
The Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Dr Dermot Clifford, said the portion of the True Cross had been donated to the O’Brien Kings of Thomond by Pope Paschal II in the 12th century.
“The sacred Relic is a portion of the True Cross upon which Our Lord was crucified,” Dr Clifford said. “The high profile of Holy Cross Abbey rests primarily on its possession of this Relic.
“The Relic has attracted many pilgrims and other visitors to the Abbey down the centuries and is still a source of attraction to the present day. The unlawful removal of this Relic is regarded as an outrage by the people of faith who value its spiritual and historic importance.”
The relic regularly attracted pilgrims from across Ireland and overseas. Its very presence is believed to have motivated the reconstruction of the Abbey in the 15th century.
Gardaí believe that a red Volkswagen Touareg jeep, which was found burnt out about three miles away some time later, was used as a getaway vehicle.
They appealed to anyone with information about the theft, or who may have seen the VW jeep (registration number 06 OY or 06 LK) in the last number of weeks in the area, to come forward.
Investigating officers can be contacted at Thurles Garda Station on 0504 25100, at any garda station, or through the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111.
Additional reporting by Gavan Reilly