Thieves used a car as a battering ram to break down the doors of the Oloron-Sainte-Marie cathedral in the French Pyrenees and stole multiple religious objects, while in Oberhaslach a statue of Saint Bernadette was a beheaded.
The cathedral thieves are believed to have used a Peugeot 106 to ram the doors of the UNESCO heritage site with a tree trunk fixed to the car’s bonnet between the night hours of Sunday and the early hours of Monday morning. Investigators later found the abandoned vehicle, reports franceinfo.
Thieves stole several gold objects from the cathedral including a chalice and a gold ostensorium or monstrance, a vessel used in both Roman Catholicism and branches of High Anglicanism to display the consecrated communion bread.
The prosecutor’s office of Pau noted that at least three men participated in the theft and were all wearing masks at the time.
Oleron’s mayor, Hervé Lucbereilh, commented on the incident saying that the thieves had also broken a vase and a statue, but fortunately had not touched the sacred relics of San Grato di Aosta.
The incident was not the only church attack in France in the last several days. In the French commune of Oberhaslach near Strasbourg, unknown suspects beheaded a statue of Saint Bernadette in the chapel of the Hermitage Saint-Florent.
A local parishioner discovered the decapitated statue on Sunday afternoon, according to Father Marc D’Hooge. The priest said the figure might have been used in an attempt to break into another room where church vessels and other objects are kept.
“Last year, we had already had a fire in the toilet of the hermitage,” Father D’Hooge said. He added that he did not want to lock the door to the church, saying it was a “point of honour” to keep the doors open to the public.
Over the last several years, France has seen a rising number of thefts and acts of vandalism against churches. A report from March claimed that on average as many as three churches were attacked per day in France over the last three years.