Gardaí have arrested two Romanians after CCTV footage taken from a church in North-West Cork clearly revealed their unholy deed.
Using long, thin sticks with chewing gum on the end, the gang members inserted them into the charity boxes.
The gum stuck on to euro notes which were then lifted out with the stick.
Inspector Tony Sugrue, who is based in Kanturk, confirmed that gardaí had arrested two men, aged 19 and 46, in connection with thefts from churches in Millstreet, Ballydaly, and Rathmore.
He said a file was being prepared for the DPP.
Gardaí have recovered some money but suspect the gang may have stolen hundreds of euro and believe churches in other parts of counties Cork and Kerry had been targeted.
Last November, gardaí in the same region recovered a large haul of gold and brass-plated candle sticks, collection boxes, bowls, vases, holy pictures, and linen altar cloths which had been stolen from churches in Newmarket, Meelin, Rockchapel, Ballydesmond, Kiskeam, Cullen, Lismire, Castlemagnier, Knocknagree, Lisgriffen, Liscarroll, and Ballyhea, which are all in Cork.
Churches at Fearnagh and Templeglantine, Co Limerick; Clogheen, Co Tipperary; and Rathmore, Co Kerry, were also ransacked.
Two Irishmen in their 50s had been arrested during that operation.
Insp Sugrue said that since then, a number of churches had been forced to install CCTV.
In the latest investigation, the technology had reportedly proved invaluable in helping to identify the thieves.
“We would advise churches which haven’t put in CCTV to do so. The difficulty is thieves see churches as soft targets and often go into them during the day when there is nobody around.”
He said the public could also assist in combating the thefts.
“If people see strangers going into churches they should take down the registration number of their vehicles and pass them onto their local gardaí.”