A CATHOLIC church had to cancel one of its Masses after a suspicious device was discovered outside.
A controlled explosion was carried out after British army bomb disposal experts were called to the alert at St Mary's Star of the Sea on Shore Road in Newtownabbey on Saturday evening.
The suspicious object was removed for examination and roads in the area were closed for a short time.
It was eventually declared to be a hoax.
The incident came a day after two viable pipe bombs were discovered at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church on the Doagh Road in Ballyclare, Co Antrim.
Parish priest Fr Anthony Alexander had to cancel 6pm Mass at St Mary's Star of the Sea on Saturday because of the alert.
He believes the two incidents could be linked.
"I arrived at the chapel to get organised for the evening Mass at about 5pm and the police were arriving at the same time, because they had just received a call," he said.
"So it was just the one Mass on Saturday that was disrupted. But it was a real inconvenience for those people who live close to the church, because they had to leave their homes.
"People arriving for Mass were sad and upset, but they were philosophical about it. All the local churches were really supportive.
"It is sad. I don't know what those people who do this kind of thing are trying to prove, but I won't spend my life worrying about what somebody who doesn't like us is going to do."
Alliance councillor Billy Webb said he was appalled that a place of worship had been targeted.
"There is no justification behind this. To force people out of their homes is despicable. This follows the alert at the church in Ballyclare on Friday and these types of incident are completely unacceptable.
"If anybody has any information about them I would urge them to con- tact the police."
Two pipe bombs were discovered at the Sacred Heart church in Ballyclare on Friday.
No controlled explosions were carried out but component parts were removed for further forensic examination.
UUP South Antrim assembly member Danny Kinahan condemned the incidents.
"I utterly condemn whoever is responsible for this act. The vast majority of the community in South Antrim has no time for those who would seek to create and exploit sectarian divisions for their own ends," he said." ■ TARGET St Mary's Star of the Sea Catholic Church on Shore Road, Newtownabbey
PICTURE: Cliff Donaldson