Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Vial of Pope John Paul II’s blood stolen from Catholic priest

A holy relic containing a vial of blood taken from the late Pope John Paul II was stolen from a Catholic priest while he was travelling by train but recovered in mysterious circumstances a few hours later.

The priest, Augusto Baldini, was on a train heading north out of Rome when his backpack, which contained the reliquary, was swiped by three thieves. 

The relic consisted of an open book with gilded pages in which was embedded a tiny glass vial containing the blood, which was taken from John Paul following the attempt on his life in St Peter’s Square by a Turkish gunman in 1981.

“One of the thieves distracted me, telling me I was on the wrong train,” Father Baldini said. “I turned round to look, and it was then that his accomplices stole my backpack.”

He was travelling to a sanctuary near the port of Civitavecchia, where the relic was supposed to go on display.

The three men jumped off the train in the town of Marina di Cerveteri and disappeared.
The priest reported the theft and railway police searched the area for several hours.

They eventually found the relic in a stand of cane grass close to the railway station and returned it to him.

Either the thieves had not appreciated the value of the relic or they had been planning to return later to recover it, police said.

“Maybe they thought there was a computer in the backpack,” said Father Baldini. He said that he had been “desperate” after realising the relic had been stolen and had prayed for its recovery.

John Paul, who died in 2005, has been placed on the path to sainthood by his successor, Benedict XVI.

Last year the late Polish pope was beatified in a ceremony at the Vatican.

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