The annual Mass at the Holy Year Cross overlooking Clonmel went ahead on Monday morning, despite the vandalism of the site which has been condemned by the town’s first citizen.
Mayor Darren Ryan, speaking at the Mass, condemned as “disgraceful” the vandalism that saw oil poured over the altar and the holy statues used on the altar sometime on Sunday night or early Monday morning.
The desecration of the area was only discovered at 9.30am on Monday, an hour and a half before the Mass was due to start.
An emergency plan swung into action and a gazebo and table were secured by the voluntary committee that looks after the Cross to provide a temporary altar to ensure that the ceremony went ahead.
“We couldn’t believe it, we were absolutely sick and disgusted when we saw the damage”, said committee member Sean Prendergast.
He said it was the second act of vandalism in the area in the space of a week. The previous weekend a number of wooden stakes, which are used to fence off the area to prevent sheep from roaming near the altar in the run-up to the annual Mass, were stolen and burned.
Mr. Prendergast said that within 15-20 minutes of yesterday morning’s “sickening” discovery a gazebo had been borrowed from Jimmy Delahunty, Old Bridge, while local publican Tom McMahon supplied the table for the altar.
“People just stepped up to the mark to help us out. What happened was disgusting, especially after all the work that the lads put in to get the place ready”, he said.
The vandalism was reported to the Gardai, who are investigating the incident.
The oil was also poured over commemorative plaques at the site. The clean-up operation is expected to begin this week.
Another large congregation was present on Bank Holiday Monday at the annual Mass, which was celebrated by Fr. Ray Reidy, Ss Peter and Paul’s at the site of the Cross on Cnoc a Chomortais, or Scrouthea Hill.
Mass goers were horrified when they arrived at the hilltop to discover the desecration of the altar.
As well as condemning the vandalism, Cllr. Darren Ryan also praised the committee for making the alternative arrangements in such a short space of time.
In keeping with tradition the Mass was attended by the Mayor and members of Clonmel Borough Council.
The Cross, which was erected 61 years ago, and the surrounding area are maintained by a committee based at the Old Bridge, although people from other areas of the town are also welcome to join.
As well as thanking everyone who helped out on Monday morning, Sean Prendergast said the committee was also grateful to the Civil Defence for their assistance offered to pilgrims on their way to the Cross.
“They’re absolutely outstanding and provide a great service every year”, he said.