Attack on picturesque church in Co Galway described as "an act of persecution against all Christians"
A SENIOR Catholic cleric has described an attack, which left a small picturesque church in Co Galway completely destroyed, as an "an act of persecution against all Christians".
Gardaí are investigating the attack on the Church of Ireland building at Errislannan in Clifden.
In a statement Catholic archbishop of Tuam Dr Michael Neary praised his Protestant neighbours for their bravery and perseverance in the wake of what he called "this threatening development."
The interior of the church was found in ruins, with windows smashed, electrics ripped out of the walls, and the pulpit, pews and organ all destroyed.
Reports suggest it could cost around €70,000 to repair the damage caused.
The rural church, had not been in use for the past four weeks, and the damage was only discovered on Thursday.
Rev Stan Evans, the Priest in Charge of the Omey Group of Parishes, described the attack on the church as a "wanton act of vandalism".
"The church has been completely decimated," he said.
"The pews, the pulpit, the organ, the altar table, everything smashed, the lights ripped out. The bible, which is a beautiful, family, church bible was thrown out the east window.
"Even the cross has been taken and used as a weapon to smash items and it is quite devastating".
The Church of Ireland Bishop of Tuam, the Right Rev Patrick Rooke, also issued a statement about the desecration of the church, saying he was "horrified and saddened by the wanton destruction carried out."
He added that Errislannan Church is maintained and used by a very small church-going community in the summer.
"This is a most devastating attack on a sacred place," he said.
"I have no doubt, however, that they will galvanise the necessary support to ensure that the major repairs are carried out and worship will resume again next summer as usual."
Dr Neary described the attack on the church as "distressing" and said it was "an act of persecution against all Christians".
"The violent images of the devastation in the Holy Trinity Church in Errislannan are distressing...," he said.
"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".
The archbishop added: "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 Rev Stan Evans, for his bravery and perseverance in the wake of this threatening development".