BURGLARS stole a special processional cross from Leominster Priory and smashed it up outside to strip away its silver.

The church has been hit by two burglaries over the past week losing communion silverware and other items.

Rector Rev Mike Kneen said the loss of the cross so close to Easter was especially sad.

But the burglaries would not change the principle of trust the priory preferred to keep itself secure, he said.

Mr Kneen called police on Saturday morning when he saw “obvious” signs of tampering at the main door.

He then joined officers in searching the church to see the silver cross mounted on a 6ft wooden pole had been taken after its case had been forced.

Two 3ft silver bowl top candle holders and a 3ft vergers wand – a wooden pole with silver top – were also taken from their cabinets.

The wooden section of the cross was found broken up in the priory’s grounds, its silver stripped away.

Used to lead services, the cross was donated by a local family in the 1950s.

An alternative was found for Sunday, said Mr Kneen.

Just a few days earlier, burglars are believed to have struck during the day to steal communion silverware from a cupboard.

The two jugs and a chalice with matching paten were used to take communion at residential and care homes served by the priory church.

All the stolen items are engraved, with the communion silverware snatched between 1pm on February 21 and 8.15am on February 22. The cross, candle holders and wand went between 2pm last Thursday (February 28) and 9am on Saturday.

On Thursday between 5pm and 10pm a tin with a small quantity of cash in was taken from the reception office at Forbury Chapel, close to the priory in Church Street, Leominster.

And between 6.30pm last Thursday and 8.30am Friday, a break-in was also attempted at St Ethelbert’s RC Church, Bargates, causing more than £100 in damage to the door.

Information can be given to Leominster police on 0300 3333000