A Meath priest has urged parishioners to be mindful of their belongings after thefts from two people during Mass last weekend, which have been described as "a new low" by a Garda Sgt.
Fr Declan Hurley, parish administrator, said he was "upset" and "deeply saddened" at the thefts during 6pm Mass at St Mary's Church in Navan last Saturday night.
It is understood that a handbag was taken when a woman left her seat to go for Holy Communion while a pick-pocket took a phone from a man during the Mass, which always receives a large congregation.
In a statement, Fr Hurley said: “I am upset and deeply annoyed that Mass in St Mary’s Church - a time when parishioners gather as a community around the table of the Lord - should become an occasion for theft.
"Thankfully our security camera system allowed the members of An Garda Síochána to identify the suspect immediately.
“I thank the gardaí for their swift response to this incident and for their kindness to the victims involved.
Fr Hurley said parishioners should draw the attention of church stewards to any suspicious activity.
Meath crime prevention officer Sgt Dean Kerins also urged Mass-goers to be vigilant with their belongings.
“This is definitely a new low for me. I’m sure there has been thefts from churches before but this is the first time that I’ve ever heard of it happening while people went to receive Holy Communion.
“Unfortunately, nowhere is safe anymore and I would again remind people to be vigilant with their belongings at Mass and if they do leave them in a seat while going for Communion, maybe ask someone you know to keep an eye on them until you return.”
Gardaí have confirmed they are investigating the incidents.