St. Manchan's Shrine and the Cult of Relics

Evidently there has been a recent rash of relic thefts across Ireland (including a relic of the True Cross and a reliquary of St. Brigid).  It's a shame that these stories do not get more attention in the media.  Many "modern" Catholics seem to be ashamed of the cult of relics; Dark Age "superstitions" abandoned with most every other salutary pious practice jettisoned after the Second Vatican Council.  This is a practice that desperately needs to be restored throughout Holy Church.  Before the Reformation, the English were particularly devoted to their shrines and the holy relics within.  Perhaps this is something of the Patrimony we can recall for the good of all God's People.

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THIEVES who stole a priceless 12th-century shrine from behind an alarmed bulletproof glass panel in a church were able to prise the locks open with a screwdriver or their fingers.

The richly ornate St Manchan's Shrine was taken from Boher Church in Co Offaly by two culprits in broad daylight on Friday.

The relic was recovered by gardai nearby in Doon, Co Offaly, on Saturday evening. It is understood it was found hidden in a bog. It is not known if it suffered any damage as a result of the raid.

Boher curate Fr James Mac Kiernan yesterday speculated that one of the thieves used either a finger or a screwdriver to force open the armoured panelling.

The relic — reputed to contain the bones of the 7th century St Manchan, who founded a monastery in Lemanaghan — was on display behind a bulletproof glass panel and guarded by an alarm and CCTV.

One of the thieves entered the church disguised with a hoodie over their face while the second waited in a getaway car.

Fr MacKiernan said the thieves were determined to get their hands on the relic and were not put off when the security alarm was activated.

However, he said a review of security would now be carried out.


"The locks and the alarm are at the bottom of the panelling and they were able to get either a finger or screwdriver in at the top to prise it out, and then they used force to pull the thing open," Fr MacKiernan said.

He said the shrine was of great historical value to the parish, but of no monetary value.

He disputed one newspaper report that said it was worth €20m, adding it may have been insured for up to €4m.

"As a commodity, it's of no value really to anybody, but to the people of the parish it's invaluable," he said.

"It has been in the parish since 1130. It has been an integral part of almost every facet of life in the parish for the last 1,000 years.

"There is huge devotion to it and huge reverence for it, and it means an awful lot to the people here," Fr MacKiernan said.

The relic is made of yew wood and gilt bronze. It was taken at about 1.30pm on Friday.

Two men who were being questioned about the theft were released without charge on Saturday afternoon. A file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

– Colm Kelpie
Irish Independent

Author: Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organized the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. He is also the CEO of Three Fish Consulting, LLC, an Information Technology consultancy based in Orlando, FL. He can be reached via email at ccampbell at threefish dot co.

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