GARDAÍ in Raheny are appealing for information from the public in tracing a valuable reliquary that was stolen from a Northside church last week.
Northside parishioners were left shocked by the theft of the reliquary, which has been in St Brigid’s Church, Killester, since 1929.
According to parish priest, Monsignor Alex Stenson, it was “provident” that the relic, a priceless cheekbone fragment of St Brigid, wasn’t in the reliquary at the time.
Fortunately, the relic was available for blessings two days later when the church celebrated the saint’s feast day.
The theft is the sixth robbery of the church and its adjacent resource centre in the last nine months.
The opportunist thief, believed to be in his early 20s, struck just after midday on Monday, January 30, and was caught on CCTV calmly entering the church after a funeral mass when it was empty.
The thief, who was wearing a white jacket and dark jeans, managed to unbolt the reliquary in a matter of minutes before packing it away in a holdall and making his escape.
While the theft sparked outrage and disgust from many, Monsignor Stenson said it was not for him to judge the culprit.
“He may have been having difficulties in his life,” he told Northside People.
“Nowadays some people are so addicted to drugs that they would do anything for money.
“It’s not for us to judge them. He saw the opportunity to steal and he took it.”
The ornate reliquary, which is estimated to be worth in the region of €10,000, was fashioned in the style of St Patrick’s Bell, with a distinctive Celtic cross.
The bronze cabinet, one foot in height, was made in preparation for receiving the relic back in 1929.
“The reliquary had recently been polished as part of a refurbishment that’s ongoing in the church at present,” Monsignor Stenson explained.
“I suppose that’s what attracted the thief to it. I suppose the intention is to sell it or melt the bronze down.
“I don’t imagine they were interested in the relic.
“You could say it was providential that the relic wasn’t in the reliquary at the time.
“Thanks to our sacristan Tom O’Brien we had decided to wait until after the feast of St Brigid to put it back into the reliquary.”
The church has been a target for robberies since its opening hours were extended four years ago.
It is now open to the public until 3pm.
“It’s inevitable that any church is going to be vulnerable to robberies,” Monsignor Stenson said.
“Unfortunately, it’s one of the risks you take when you leave a church open to the public between mass times.
“In this case, this fellow visited the church not just to say his prayers and we would ask him to please return it so that it can be returned to its rightful home.”
He added: “It is of course very sad but it could have been worse.”
While the church and its contents are insured, Monsignor Stenson believes it would be impossible to replace the reliquary which was of huge sentimental value to the parish given that the church is dedicated to the patron saint.
Gardai are using the footage taken from the CCTV at St Brigid’s as part of their investigation. They are appealing to anyone with information to contact gardai at Raheny on 01-6664300 or on the Garda confidential line 1800 666 111.