April 26, 2018 / 6:27 PM / 10 months ago

Stolen heart of Dublin's patron saint returned intact

Assistant Commissioner of the Irish Police Pat Leahy returns the 800-year-old heart of the patron Saint of Dublin Laurence O'Toole to Archbishop Michael Jackson during a ceremony in Christ Church Cathedral after it was stolen six years ago, in Dublin, Ireland, April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

DUBLIN (Reuters) - The 800-year-old heart of the patron saint of Dublin was returned to the city’s oldest cathedral on Thursday, six years after being stolen.

The heart of Laurence O’Toole, the first Irish archbishop of Dublin, was stolen from Christ Church Cathedral in 2012 by a thief who left more valuable gold artefacts behind in favour of the relic, which was kept in a wooden heart-shaped box and was locked in a metal cage.

O’Toole died in northern France in 1180, but his heart was returned to Dublin and installed at the cathedral, where it remained for over 800 years.

“It is absolutely incredible,” cathedral dean Dermot Dunne told the Irish national broadcaster RTE. “I am thrilled at how intact it is.”

The heart, locked in its small metal cage, was returned to the Church of Ireland cathedral at a packed public ceremony.

As a choir led the congregation in the Hymn of St Laurence O’Toole, Patrick Leahy, assistant police commissioner for the Dublin region, followed a procession to the altar, where the heart was handed over on a cushion and placed on a stand.

“I’m absolutely delighted to be able to bring it home to Christ Church,” Leahy told reporters.

A police spokesman declined to comment on reports that the heart had been was discovered by officers in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, or to say whether the thief had been identified.

Reporting by Conor Humphries and Padraic Halpin; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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