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An Irish burglar has the heart of a saint - and the church wants it back

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 7th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In one of the more bizarre cases of theft, the preserved heart of Saint Laurence O'Toole has been stolen from the Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. The heart had been displayed in the cathedral since the 13th century, stored in a heart-shaped wooden box and secured in a small, square iron cage on the wall of a chapel.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Whoever stole the relic had to cut through two bars, pry the cage loose, and stealthily made off with it over the weekend.

"I am devastated that one of the treasured artifacts of the cathedral is stolen," the Most Rev. Dermot Dunne, the cathedral's dean says. "It has no economic value but it is a priceless treasure that links our present foundation with its founding father."

The Garda Siochana, Ireland's national police force say that detectives are studying hours of closed-circuit TV footage to try to identify the approximately 40 people who walked out the cathedral's front doors Saturday morning.

Investigators say the thief may have hidden overnight in the cathedral and fled with the heart when its doors opened Saturday. Worshippers didn't spot that the relic was missing until later that afternoon. No arrests have been made.

The Cathedral's Director of Operations Nuala Kavanagh said whoever stole it appeared to have no interest in financial gain, since several nearby objects made of gold and other precious materials were not touched.

"It's completely bizarre," she said. "They didn't touch anything else. They wanted the heart of St. Laurence O'Toole."

Church services went through as usual on Sunday. Tourists visiting the Viking-era cathedral weren't told of the theft. Many approached the O'Toole chapel and spent much time looking, confusedly, between their guide books and the pried-open box.

Ireland's churches have suffered a spate of such robberies of irreplaceable - and difficult to sell, religious artifacts.

Three relics believed to be fragments of the cross used to crucify Jesus were stolen last year from Holy Cross Abbey in County Tipperary. Police have since recovered those relics in January, without arrests.

In January, a thief stole the ornate container housing the jawbone of St. Brigid in a north side Dublin church. The container was bolted down to the altar. However and had just been cleaned. The jawbone of St. Brigid, one of Ireland's earliest and most venerated saints, wasn't inside.

O'Toole was Dublin's archbishop from 1162 to 1180 and gained a reputation as a skillful mediator between rival Gaelic and Norman factions then fighting for power in Ireland. He died aged 58 while traveling in Normandy on another peace mission. On his death bed he was said to have declined to make a will, claiming not to have a penny to his name.

Pope Honorius III canonized O'Toole in 1225 on the weight of many claims of miracles at his original grave site. O'Toole's heart had been the last surviving part of his remains.

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