Irish priests keep candle for Saint Valentine
As lovers worldwide prepare to celebrate Valentine's Day, a Dublin church is proud to call itself the final resting place of the patron saint of lovers.
Dublin – As romantics around the world prepare to declare their undying passion on Valentine's Day, a Dublin church is staking its own claim – as the home of the original saint of lovers.
Saint Valentine was a priest in ancient Rome, executed in the third century for performing Christian marriages, and buried there.
But in 1835 an Irish Carmelite priest, John Spratt, so impressed and charmed Pope Gregory XVI that he was allowed to take Saint Valentine's remains back home as a gift for his home parish.
The forgotten saint
Now the Whitefriars Street Church in Dublin is preparing to celebrate the annual 14 February feast of love, but wants people to remember it more than once a year.
"It was not uncommon at the beginning of the 19th century for local churches around the world to be given relics taken from the catacombs in Rome," said Carmelite priest Chris Crowley.
"So Valentine is with us and we're very happy to have him," he told AFP.
Saint Valentine and disciples
In fact Saint Valentine's whereabouts were forgotten for over a century, before a shrine and statue in honour of him were finally built here in the 1950s.
A book in the church is filled with countless wishes addressed to the patron saint of lovers, while a steady stream of locals and visitors alike pray here for help in their amorous quests.
"God has someone in mind for me, and I obviously haven't met him yet. So I just hope that Saint Valentine will assist me, that I will find him," said one female visitor.
Another added: "We just prayed to find the right one, and I believe I will be led to him when the time is right."
Keeping Valentine sacred
Valentine's Day this weekend is a worldwide phenomenon – and big business, as lovers plan everything from flowers, chocolates and tete-a-tete dinners to romantic holidays and full-blown declarations of ardour and marriage proposals.
Offers making headlines this week include one in the United Arab Emirates, where a hotel is touting a seven-day love-fest stay for a cool million dollars.
But the priests in Dublin are keen to ensure that the saint of love is not besmirched by tatty commercialisation, keeping sales of memorabilia to a discreet minimum.
"We do want to keep it on a level that it's not just 'Valentine's Day'. That would diminish the significance of the saint," said David Weakliam, another Carmelite priest.
AFP / Expatica