Sunday, February 02, 2014

Pope's blood may have been stolen to order say police

A statue of the late Pope John Paul II is seen in front of the small mountain church of San Pietro della Ienca, near the city of L'AquilaA religious reliquary containing the blood of Pope John Paul II that was taken from a remote church in the mountains of central Italy may have been stolen to order, police believe. 
The reliquary, a piece of cloth stained with the blood of the late Pope and encased in gold, was taken during a break-in at the Church of St Peter of Ienca, a tiny stone chapel in the Apennine mountains which is dedicated to the Polish pontiff.
Italian Police believe it may have been stolen by thieves who were hoping to sell it on the black market for religious relics, rather than taken by opportunists or vandals.

Pope John Paul was hugely popular during his 27-year papacy and was credited with helping to bring down Communism.
Relics that are linked to him are likely to become even more esteemed when he is made a saint during a ceremony at the Vatican in April. 

The one that was stolen features a fragment of cloth that was purportedly taken from the cassock worn by the Pope when Mehmet Ali Agca, a lone Turkish gunman, shot him in St Peter’s Square during a failed assassination attempt in May 1981. 

The thieves sawed through bars on a window to the church, which lies in the shadow of Gran Sasso, the highest mountain in the Apennine range, but otherwise left little trace of their presence.

“They didn’t take any money, even though they would have had all the time they needed to ransack the church,” said Franca Corrieri, the custodian who discovered the theft at the weekend.

Her father, Pasquale Corrieri, who also looks after the church, said he believed the reliquary had been stolen “to order”.

He said he was “dismayed” by the theft of the reliquary, which bears the Latin words “Ex sanguine Beati Joannis Pauli II Papae.” 

There has also been speculation in Italy that the object of religious veneration was stolen by a satanic group for use in some kind of ritual.

Giuseppe Petrocchi, the archbishop of the nearby city of L’Aquila, called for the reliquary to be returned as soon as possible and called the theft “deplorable and sacrilegious.”

“I appeal to those who carried out this deplorable act. Give back to the Church in L’Aquila the reliquary of our protector,” the archbishop said.

Police with sniffer dogs continued their search for their reliquary on Tuesday, scouring the snow-covered slopes around the church, which lies in an area where Pope John Paul liked to hike and ski and which reminded him of his home country. 

The relic was donated to the church three years ago by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Pope’s former private secretary and now the archbishop of Krakow in Poland.

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