French church robbed, thieves use tree as battering ram

Cathédrale Oloron-Sainte-Marie
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Cathédrale Oloron-Sainte-Marie.

n this latest incidence of crimes against Catholic churches, the thieves took gold vessels and 16th-century vestments.

A rural Catholic Church in France was robbed of gold liturgical vessels and an embroidered 16th-century cloth given by King Francois I.

The theft which took place early Monday was the latest in a rash of robberies and desecrations of Catholic churches that have taken place across France. 

The crime made headlines because of the thieves’ unusual methods. They strapped a tree trunk to a car to use as a battering ram to crash through the doors of the church, the former Cathédrale Sainte-Marie, now Eglise Sainte-Marie, in Oloron-Sainte-Marie, reported The Tablet.

According to The Tablet’s report, after breaking through the church doors, the burglars sawed through metal gates and left with gold chalices, monstrances, a cross and the valuable vestments.

Parish priest Fr. Jean-Marie Barennes said that the brazen robbery and other crimes against French churches that have taken place in recent months show a worrying disregard for the Church and its values.

“These serious incivilities and this total lack of respect for a sacred heritage are multiplying in France, which raises concern for the deep sense of the values of civilization that characterizes our society,” said Aillet, according The Tablet.

The church, located near the Pyrenees mountains,  is a popular stop for pilgrims traveling to Santiago de Compostelo in Spain, and was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998.

Incidents of vandalism and robberies of Catholic churches and cemeteries have been on the increase this year. The Conference of French Bishops reported 228 “violent anti-Christian acts” from January to March of 2019, according to the Catholic Herald.