A HISTORIC cathedral burned to the ground on Christmas morning -- just hours after a bishop talked about an arson attack on a convent in 1642.
St Mel's Cathedral in Longford and its contents -- including records and precious artefacts -- were destroyed after a fire started in the back of the 19th century building in the early hours of yesterday morning. [...]
Joe Flaherty, managing director of the 'Longford Leader' attended the final Mass in St Mel's, at 10pm on Christmas Eve.
"There was a huge crowd there. The Bishop said the Mass but in his homily he made an analogy to the difficult times facing the church. He talked about a convent in Tubberclair (near Athlone, Co Westmeath) and how, during the penal times, the convent had to be evacuated. English soldiers ransacked and burned it and the nuns had to relocate to a convent in Nun's Island."
Gardai probe Christmas blaze as town mourns loss of cathedral - National News, Frontpage - Independent.ie
It began around 5 am on Christmas morning, a few hours after the celebration of Midnight Mass. [...]
The Cathedral, which was built in 1856, featured priceless stained glass windows designed by the famed Harry Clarke, an invaluable “Second Coming” tapestry behind the Bishop’s throne created by sacred art specialist Ray Carroll, and an 1860 belfry and an 1889 portico, both considered among the great architectural structures of any church in Ireland.[...]
But as detectives began door to door inquiries yesterday, one question was on everyone’s minds: Was this arson? Given the recent resignation of a second Irish bishop after a report revealed the cover-up of child sex abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese, it could be that this was a deliberate attack on the Irish Catholic Church. If so, it marks a new chapter of anti-clericalism in Ireland.
Longford Cathedral burns down: Is the Irish Church under attack? – Telegraph Blogs
Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise Colm O'Reilly said the cathedral had been burned to a shell after fire ripped through it from end to end. "It's destroyed," the distraught bishop said.