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900-year-old heart: Catholic church pleads for return of stolen relic

March 6, 2012 |  7:31 am

900-year-old heart stolen from an iron cage at a Dublin church.
The 900-year-old heart of a 12th century Irish saint has been stolen from a church in Dublin, Ireland, and a local Roman Catholic official is pleading for its return -- "no questions asked."

The heart of St. Laurence O'Toole was stolen from Christ Church Cathedral on Saturday, reports the Catholic News Agency. The news site quotes the Rev. Dermot Dunne as saying locals are grieving the loss of the relic. "It's valueless" to others, Dunne told CNA, but means a great deal to the cathedral and the community.

According to several news sites, the heart was kept inside a wooden heart-shaped box inside an iron cage bolted to a wall. The cage had been pried open. Q13 Fox News, citing Irish media, noted that other valuable items inside the church were left in place.

Preservation of relics -- clothing or body parts -- of saints is a tradition within Catholicism. They're said to be preserved, among other reasons, to provide the faithful a reference point for prayers.

Last year in California, a 780-year-old relic -- said to be a bone from St. Anthony's body -- was stolen  from a Long Beach Catholic church. The relic was recovered and a suspect arrested, The Times reported at the time.

Church officials in Dublin, CNA says, are holding out hope that the heart of St. O'Toole also will be recovered.

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-- Amy Hubbard in Los Angeles

 Photo: The iron cage that housed the heart of St. Laurence O'Toole sits broken and empty Sunday inside Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland. Credit:  Shawn Pogatchnik / Associated Press

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