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John Paul II blood relic theft trio released

Drug addicts recall 'area' where they threw cloth away

30 January, 20:56
John Paul II blood relic theft trio released (see previous).

(ANSA) - L'Aquila, January 30 - Three men who stole a reliquary with the blood of late pope John Paul II from a central Italian church at the weekend were released Thursday after remembering where they threw the blood-soaked cloth away.

The three drug addicts in their late teens, arrested after the iron container was found, had previously been unable to recall the area where they disposed of the relic inside it.

The relic is one of only three blood relics of the Polish pope originating from a donation he made after an assassination attempt in St Peter's in 1981. Earlier in the day, police found the iron reliquary near a drug-addict treatment facility in the town of Collemaggio in a mountainous part of the central-eastern Abruzzo region.

The three addicts, two of whom have a history of petty theft, were released for helping police with their inquiried and because they do not pose a flight risk.

A search for the priceless relic will resume Friday morning.

The reliquary was taken along with a cross last weekend from the church of San Pietro della Ienca, located at the foot of the Gran Sasso mountain. The church is located in an area where the charismatic pontiff used to hike, ski and meditate.

John Paul, who died in 2005 and is set to be made a saint at the end of April, enjoyed slipping out of the Vatican to the quiet and devout community in the Abruzzo region. Relics of the pope credited with helping defeat eastern European Communism are bound to increase in value after John Paul becomes a saint.

This is what prompted speculation that the theft was made to order, but police squashed this, saying they broke in on the off chance of finding something valuable they could fence to feed their habit.

The relic was not stolen on commission for a particular buyer, police said.