12th Century holy relic of the cross stolen from Irish monastery
Clergy appeal to thieves – emphasize its lack of monetary value
Police investigating the theft of the “True Cross”, a relic of the cross used in Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, have identified the vehicle used in the crime.
It is now believed that the thieves were working on plans for the robbery for weeks. On Tuesday night two armed masked men raided the quiet monastery in daylight.
The cross was handed over to the Holycross Abbey in Thurles, Tipperary in the 12th century by King Donal Mor O’Brien. The other two relics stolen were presented by St Peter’s Basilica in Rome in 1977. The “True Cross” has been a source of devotion and pilgrimage for the last 900 years.
The relic is contained in a 12-inch high silver cross, which hung from a chain.
Speaking to Vatican Radio, Archbishop Dermott Clifford of the diocese of Cashel and Emly explained, “The Relic of the True Cross is the most precious relic that you could have. As we know, the True Cross was found by St Helena, the mother of Constantine. Holy Cross Abbey has visitors every day, people want to come and pray before this relic but of course it’s to Our Lord that they want to pray, who died for us on the Cross. The purpose of all relics really is to direct us to Our Lord”.
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Parish priest at Holycross, Father Tom Breen, told the Irish Independent that he believed the men had been planning the robbery for some time. On September 24, while he was celebrating a wedding, a set of keys were stolen from the sacristy. Fr Breen believes these two incidents are related despite the fact that the monastery’s locks were replaced.
He said, “I’m totally baffled as to why they would take the relics, they have little commercial value, even if melted down."
Breen added that the loss to the community was “immeasurable”. Busloads of tourists continue to arrive to see the cross. Annually the abbey hosts up to 250,000 visitors.
The parish priest said “I would appeal to the thieves in the strongest possible terms not to damage the relic -- just leave the artifacts in some church and they will eventually come back to me or we will use a third person.
"I would in my heart feel that the thieves had no real appreciation of what it was they were taking and I would hope that they didn't have any ulterior motive."
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