(RNS) Pope John Paul II participates in a procession in August, 2000. RNS file photo courtesy Universal Press Syndicate.

(RNS) Pope John Paul II participates in a procession in August, 2000. RNS file photo courtesy Universal Press Syndicate.

ROME (RNS) A vial containing the blood of the late Pope John Paul II was stolen from a village church in a mountainous area east of Rome, sparking a regionwide manhunt that includes more than 50 police and a team of dogs specialized in tracking.

It is not clear when the break-in at the small Church of San Pietro della Lenca in the region of Abruzzo took place, but it was discovered by a church custodian on Sunday (Jan. 26). The thief or thieves made off with a large crucifix and a gold reliquary containing the vial of the blood of John Paul, who will be proclaimed a saint in April.

Once John Paul is elevated to sainthood, artifacts from his life will increase in value.

It was not immediately clear whether the intentions are to ransom the vial, sell it, or keep it for religious purposes.

The former pontiff, who died in 2005, had a deep fondness for the Abruzzo region. Early in his papacy, he was known to sneak away from the Vatican to hike or ski in the mountains there, and he stopped in the tiny church multiple times to pray.

In 2011, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul’s former secretary who is now the archbishop of Krakow in Poland, gave the community near the church the vial of blood as a gesture to commemorate the former pope’s connection with the area. The blood was first set aside in 1981, after an attempt on John Paul’s life in St. Peter’s Square.

KRE/AMB END LYMAN

9 Comments

  1. What the heck did they have a vial of his blood for? Was he formerly Angela Jolie’s love interest? The whole relic worship thing of catholics is macabre and weird, but maybe not as weird as transubstantiation.

    Religion is poison, sometimes weird poison!!

  2. Earold, relics are not worshipped, not by Catholics, but I agree that it would be better that the Vatican refuse to permit exhibition of them. For one thing, Catholic teaching calls for burial of the dead, including cremated remains. I don’t think spreading someone parts all over the world is proper burial.

    Transubstantiation, now that’s a problem Catholcism got into by placing all its money on the Aristotelian explanation for material existence and epistemology (theory of knowing),

    But how does this make religion “poison,” Earold. Nobody is required to give any attention to relics other than the respect we’re all supposed to give to human remains–and bury them! Whatever symbolic or real value one attributes to consecrated bread and wine has nothing to do with personal behavior.

    I know, you want to cite wars and mayhem as being the result of religious belief. You won’t find those as an acceptable result of belief in Christianity, but we have found the practice of these by some who have claimed a justification in religion for it, a justification disputed by more believers than support it, radical Islam excepted.

    In short, Earold, I’m saying that examples you cite do not support the conclusions you’ve reached.

    • Duane, I recently had a conversation with a priest in England who’s church website advertised they had a the bones of some prominent catholic person of some sort displayed for viewing.

      This church keeps a vial of blood in a gold reliquary. Perhaps they are not actually worshiping these human remains, but they certainly have a macabre curiosity about them.

      I always thought those that keep the ashes of loved ones on the mantle or other important place within their home was strange. However, how strange would it be if someone waited until the flesh had rotted off the bones of their loved one and then dug them up and displayed them in their home. Quite the conversation piece, huh? Would society consider this weird, macabre? I think so. However, if it is in the context of religion, it somehow seems acceptable to some? To me, it just seems the same.

      As far as transubstantiation goes, it is simply another step in the direction of fantastical belief, and has no basis in reality. However, even more disturbing is that those who claim they actually believe that wine and crackers turns into blood and flesh, drink and eat it, in some sort of cannibalistic ritual; ghastly.

      As far as christian belief. Many claim it, but many also “believe” it means many different things. I personally like those that view the actions of jesus as instruction to be good to, and have concern for their fellow man. It is disappointing they feel they need to have fantastical beliefs in order to do so though. Then there is the rest. They feel their belief somehow gives them authority to control everyone else, because this is what they say their fantastical authority figure wants. And yes, christians have went to war and killed over their beliefs, many times.

      As far as my choice of closing statement that “religion is poison” is not necessarily aimed at every article, however most articles usually have something in it that I see as evidence.

      In this particular article it was stated that they kept this vile of blood in a gold reliquary. I wonder, how would jesus christ feel about churches that allege to represent him spending so much on housing a vial of blood while children, and adults are starving all over the world?

      Won’t go to much further but let me just say that belief in things that have no evidence are supernatural and require faith, or more appropriately stated “a suspension of reality” to believe them, and have no place in human society.

      Religion is poison!!

      • Do you believe in gravity? Why? The only evidence you have is the effects of something that has been given the name of gravity. You can’t touch it, smell it, taste it or feel it. The effects, yes. Gravity itself? No.

  3. Anyone who saw the season finale of NBC’s Dracula (all 10 of you) would know that holy relics involving blood can be used to track vampires down to their street address. So…

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