By: Claire Bergin
Church leaders in Ireland have expressed their sadness and shock following the discovery that a small rural Church of Ireland church had been badly vandalised. Extensive damage at Holy Trinity Church in Errislannan, Clifden in Co Galway incuded the Bible being thrown through a window and the pulpet being split in two. The altar rail was completely ripped from its fixings and the organ has been smashed beyond repalr.
The church, built in 1853, is used mainly in July and August. The Church of Ireland Bishop of Tuam Rt Rev Patrick Rooke said he was "horrified" by the "devasatating attack on a sacred place."
Catholic Archbishop Michael Neary issued the following statement: "The attack on the church in Errislannan is an act of persecution against all Christians.
"Over the last 12 months there has been high profile media coverage of the desecration of Christian churches in Iraq and in the Philippines. These actions are a physical threat to worshipping Christians anywhere in the world.
"The violent images of the devastation in the Holy Trinity Church in Errislannan are distressing: the Holy Bible thrown out the window; the Cross being used as a weapon to smash items; overturned and broken pews; damage to the altar; the pulpit; the organ; and the lights ripped out. This damage is not just a criminal act, rather it is an act motivated by anti-Christian sentiment and is a challenge to freedom of religious expression in Ireland today. Religious freedom is at the heart of human rights and not without cost. In too many countries, places of worship are being destroyed and people are being killed and persecuted for their religious beliefs.
"At this difficult time for the local congregation, I wish to offer my prayerful solidarity and extend my support to Bishop Patrick William Rooke, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Tuam, Killala and Anconry, and to Reverend Stan Evans, for his bravery and perseverance in the wake of this threatening development."