By Noel Dundon
As Gardai continue to investigate the theft of the relic of the True Cross from Holycross Abbey in the heart of Tipperary, profoundly saddened parishioners are still trying to come to terms with their palpable sense of loss following the violation of their sacred place of worship.
The relic, which is located in the heart of the picturesque Abbey, had been part of the community since 1200 and has been the object of devotion for thousands down through the centuries. However, it’s theft has now left locals with a sense of deep loss and Parish Priest, Fr Tom Breen has appealed for it’s return.
Raiders, wearing balaclavas, used an angle grinder to cut through a steel casing last week and were seen leaving the Abbey by a parishioner who was going in to pray. A red Volkswagen jeep with a partial registration number 06 OY or 06 LK was seen acting suspiciously in the area in the mid afternoon and was later found burned out near the Yellow Lough, a few miles from the Abbey. A dark coloured saloon car was also seen driving at high speed in the area.
Gardai investigating the theft are also looking into a connection between this incident and the disappearance of a set of keys from the Abbey last week. Every lock in the ancient Abbey, which is a well known spot for celebrity weddings, had to be changed two weeks ago and Gardai believe the two incidents are connected.
The Abbey fell silent at Masses over the weekend as prayers were offered in the hope for the return of the ancient relic which has defined Holycross for centuries and made it an extra special place of worship.
Only a few short weeks ago, over 100,000 people attended the annual Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and with the Relic on display, in full view and available for anyone who wished to bless themselves with it, the power of faith and belief was there to be witnessed in abundance.
However, with the theft of the relic of the True Cross of Christ last week, the soul has literally been cut out of Holycross Abbey and there is a palpable sense of loss in the renowned village which has been so proud and protective of it’s prized possession for nine centuries.
Scores of people came to the side Altar in the Abbey over the weekend to see the damage done and people were left shocked, saddened, disgusted, disturbed and angered by the actions of the raiders. Many were left speechless as the real sense of loss began to sink in.
Father Tom Breen, PP of Holycross, told The Tipperary Star this week, “The disappearance of the relic has left me absolutely baffled. This has been part of the tradition of Holycross Abbey since 1200 having been presented to the then Abbot by Donal Mor O’Brien. Ever since, it has been an object of devotion but it has no commercial value whatsoever. I am again appealing to whoever took the relic that they might return it by leaving it safely in a Church somewhere and it could be passed back to us. I am not giving up hope on this,” said Fr Tom who expressed his heartfelt thanks for the huge level of support received from parishioners and from the wider community.
The crosses stolen were each approximately 12” in height. One was hanging from a chain and contained two crosses and two dark stones. It was made from silver and is estimated to date from the 14th Century. The other was standing on its own base approximately ¾” in diameter. The cross contained a centrepiece that could hold the Host. This cross was made from gold and bronze.