Virgin Mary holy statue rescued from Belfast bonfire
A statue of the Virgin Mary pictured on a bonfire at Lanark Way has been handed over to Holy Cross Church in north Belfast, writes Colin O'Carroll
The statue was pictured on the bonfire with its face damaged.
It was removed by community leaders and taken to Holy Cross which is situated right at the Ardoyne interface which is the focus of the current tensions over the Parades Commission decision to ban a return Twelfth feeder parade.
Holy Cross Rector Fr Gary Donegan welcomed the handing over of the statue.
He said he hoped the gesture would defuse some of the current tension over parade.
Fr Donegan said: "It was an incredible gesture. On the 11th Night with tensions rising, this incredibly responsible act proves that there are leaders within our communities who remain committed to taking positive steps for peace.
"The person who returned the statue said that the people of the Shankill did not want to cause offence to ordinary Catholics at a very volatile time.
"From reliable information received it appears that this statue was only on the bonfire for 10 minutes before it was photographed, but it was then removed immediately by responsible community leaders who were aware of the offence this incident would cause.
"This kind of respectful and responsible leadership can only be welcomed."
Fr Donegan said it appeared the statue had been deliberately damaged, and although its face was smashed, there would now be attempts to repair it.
It's still not clear where the representation of the saint was taken from. It is not known if it came from a church or a house.