An elderly priest was forced to extinguish a blaze after youths set fire to booklets inside a Newry church on Monday afternoon.
While the culprits made off, Fr David Tohill, who is 78, was fortunate to catch the fire before it caught hold inside the St. Catherine’s Dominican Church on Dominic Street.
The incident was described by one local councillor as a “sacrilegious” and “disgusting act”.
“Just when we think we have heard it all when it comes to anti-social behaviour we plunge to new depths,” said Independent Councillor Gavin Malone.
“Three youths were seen running away from St Catherine’s Dominican Church and it transpired that they had set fire to the religious booklets at the rear of the Church.
“The Prior, Fr David Tohill was on hand and quickly extinguished the blaze before it developed into something more serious. This begs the question, where are we going? Is nothing sacred anymore?
“Remember, the Dominican community in Newry are elderly men and Fr [Stephen] Tumilty is a local man who has given 52 years of service the last 20 ministering in Newry.
“The Dominicans came to Newry in 1871 and are held in very high esteem by the people of Newry and I know that I speak for all the decent people out there who condemn, without equivocation, the sacrilegious and mindless actions of these youths.
“I appeal to them, and others engaged in such despicable behaviour, to desist from their activities before there are serious consequences.
“I extend my sincere apologies to Fr David and the Dominican community and assure them of our support and vigilance and hopefully we will not see a repeat of this cowardly behaviour.”