Who Stole Brother Andre's Heart?

During the night of March 15-16, 1973, the preserved heart of the famed miracle-man of Montreal – Frère André - was stolen from its locked reliquary in Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal. For twenty-two long months, the whereabouts of one of the most famous Catholic relics in Canada remained, disquietingly, unknown.  And then, just before Christmas 1974, the relic returned as mysteriously as it had disappeared.  No one was ever arrested in the incident and today, almost a half-century later, it remains one of Canada’s most intriguing religious “cold cases.”  

Although many devotional accounts of Brother André's life, death, and eventual canonisation pointedly ignore the episode, the theft of the famed holy man’s heart was arguably a watershed moment in modern Quebecois history on a par with the F.L.Q. crisis in 1970 and the election of the first openly separatist premier of Quebec, René Lévesque, in 1976.  The level of public outrage provoked by the theft demonstrates something important: that while many ordinary Quebecers during the révolution tranquille (the province’s rapid secularization during the 1960s and 70s) were indeed displeased with the overweening authoritarianism Roman Catholic Church, they were nonetheless horrified by what they saw as a “blasphemous” attack on a true servant of God and of the people of Montreal. 

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