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RAIDERS trashed a sacred box when they broke into a church. Sacred box vandalised by burglars.

Byline: SOPHIE DOUGHTY

RAIDERS trashed a sacred box when they broke into a church.

Burglars used a crowbar to prise the holy tabernacle - a fixed, locked container used in Catholic mass - free from its place in a Newcastle church and dragged it outside in a wheelie bin, leaving it discarded and damaged on the ground.

And today, as police hunt the raiders who struck at St Teresa's Church, in Heaton, Newcastle, the priest has told how the damage has left his congregation stunned.

Father Michael Hicky said: "It has very strong sacred value.

"I always take things philosophically, but to see it lying on the ground outside like that was awful.

"I just hope it can be restored. The congregation is very upset.

"They just don't expect things like this to happen. It has been here for 40 years."

Father Michael discovered his church had been raided when police rang him to say someone had reported a window being broken at the building. "They had gone in through a window, taken an iron bar from the double door and brought a wheelie bin in," he said.

"They had prised the tabernacle off its base and took it outside in the wheelie bin and left it on its side.

"I have never seen a tabernacle so badly damaged. It will cost thousands of pounds to repair.

"There's no way we can use it at the moment. It took four of us to get it back inside and now it's just sitting at the back of the church."

A tabernacle is used to store bread that has been blessed by the priest during a Catholic mass and is a very sacred feature of the church.

Father Michael believes it is possible the burglars could have mistaken the brass cladding on the container for gold, but said they did not steal anything else from the church.

And he believes the damage will cost thousands of pounds to repair.

Police are today appealing for witnesses to the burglary, which happened between 11am last Wednesday and 6.30am the next day.

Jesmond and Heaton Neighbourhood Sgt Kev Benson said: "Any burglary is distressing but for the offenders to target a church is beyond belief.

"They appear to have tried to target a safe in the building but have left empty handed. However, in the process they've caused some damage.

"We're carrying out a number of inquiries into the burglary, which includes checking CCTV coverage of the area. I'd urge anyone who saw any suspicious activity around the church between 11am on Wednesday, March 2, and 6.30am on Thursday, March 3, or anyone who has information about who is responsible to get in touch with us as soon as possible."

Anyone with information is asked to call Northumbria Police on 03456 043 043 ext 69191 and ask for the Jesmond and Heaton Neighbourhood Policing Team.

CAPTION(S):

VALUABLE RELIC Father Michael Hickey, inspects the tabernacle at St Theresas Church, in Heaton, which was trashed by thieves
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 10, 2011
Words:501
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