A homeless man in Dublin has pleaded not guilty, by reason of insanity, to the charge of arson of a Catholic Church at Christmas, causing $5.2 million (€4m) in damages.

Patrick Currie (49) told the Dublin Circuit Court that he set fire to the straw behind a crib in the Church with his lighter. He said he did it because he thought he was “God Almighty.”

At the time he told witnesses at a nearby hairdressers, “I am after burning that church out of it and now I am off to Rome to burn the pedophiles.”

Later he signed his consent forms at the police station with the name “Jesus Christ,” reports the Irish Independent.

Currie pleaded not guilty to the damage caused at St Catherine's Church, Meath Street, on January 2, 2012.

Consultant psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital, Conor O’Neil, gave evidence for the defense. He told the court that Currie was suffering from a mental illness, in his opinion, one which left him unable to refrain from carrying out the arson. Speaking to Currie’s defense lawyer, Ciaran O'Loughlin, he said the accused suffers from a schizoaffective disorder.

The prosecuting lawyer Karen O'Connor told the court that whether he had carried out the attack or not was not in question and said the State accepted O’Neil’s evidence.

Police officer Brian Hawkins told O’Connor that on the morning of January 2, the parish priest, Father Niall Coghlan, had noticed Currie in the Church with no shoes. He brought him a pair of shoes and boots. Shortly after this the Catholic priest was alerted to the fact that that Church was on fire.

Hawkins said that as he approached the scene several members of the public pointed Currie out to him and said he was the one responsible for starting the fire. Currie was irritated and shouting that he had burned down the Church.

Currie was arrested and brought to Cloverhill prison on remand. He was then transferred to the Central Mental Hospital.

The trial continues.

The altar (pictured) in St. Catherine's Church was destroyed in the blazeSasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland