BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – The heart of
a revered 19th century Argentine friar and patriot was stolen from an
urn in the Franciscan monastery where it was kept for years as a
religious relic, a church official said.
Whoever scooped up friar Mamerto Esquiu’s heart on Tuesday left the urn
it was stored in behind, said Jorge Martinez, head of the San Francisco
monastery in the northwestern province of Catamarca.
“The theft was carried out because of the heart — nothing else was
stolen,” he told local reporters. “It’s very sad.”
Witnesses reported seeing a bearded man run from the monastery around
the time the heart went missing, but no one had been arrested, the
Catamarca daily El Ancasti said.
Tuesday’s theft marks the second time since 1990 that the friar’s heart
was mysteriously spirited away, the newspaper said.
Born in Catamarca in 1826, Esquiu entered the monastery at a young age
and was ordained a Catholic priest in 1848. He gave stirring speeches
supporting Argentine unity and its 1853 constitution, becoming a famed
religious leader and patriot.
Esquiu died in 1883. When his body was exhumed for an autopsy shortly
thereafter, church authorities said his heart showed no signs of
decomposition. It was removed and given to the monastery where he had
begun his religious studies.
Esquiu’s body is entombed at a cathedral in the neighboring province of
Vatican authorities in recent years began to consider Esquiu for
possible beatification, a step toward sainthood in the Roman Catholic