The heart of St. Laurence O'Toole, patron saint of Dublin, has gone missing from Christ Church Cathedral in Ireland, leaving cathedral officials distraught and perplexed.
"I am devastated that one of the treasured artifacts of the cathedral is stolen," said the Most Rev. Dermot Dunne, the cathedral's dean. "It has no economic value but it is a priceless treasure that links our present foundation with its founding father."
The relic was contained in a heart-shaped wooden box inside of a steel cage attached to a wall of the chapel dedicated to O'Toole's memory.
O'Toole served as Dublin Archbishop from 1162 to 1180 and frequently served as a mediator between warring Norman and Gaelic factions. He was canonized by Pope Honorius III in 1225.
On Saturday afternoon, one of the worshippers noticed that the iron bars had been pried open and the box containing the saint's heart stolen.
Police have been examining closed circuit footage to try and identify everyone who entered and exited the cathedral on Saturday morning. They believe the thief may have entered Friday evening, hidden inside the church until after it was closed, and then escaped with the relic in the morning.
Nuala Kavanaugh, the cathedral's director of operations, noted that the thief could have made off with any number of artifacts containing gold and jewels, but chose not to do so.
"It's completely bizarre," she said. "They didn't touch anything else. They wanted the heart of St. Laurence O'Toole."
This latest crime is just one of several recent thefts involving irreplaceable religious artifacts with little to no monetary value in Irish churches.
In January, a thief stole the jawbone of St. Brigid from a Dublin church, and last year, three wooden fragments believed to be pieces of the cross used to crucify Jesus were stolen from Holy Cross Abbey in County Tipperary.
Although the fragments of the cross were returned, the jawbone is still missing and no arrests have been made in either case.