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'Most' of John Paul II blood relic found

Three drug addicts stole priceless object in Abruzzo Saturday

31 January, 13:02
'Most' of John Paul II blood relic found (ANSA) - L'Aquila, January 31 - Most of a cloth soaked with the blood of late pope John Paul II stolen last weekend has been found in the garage of one of the three drug addicts in their late teens who took it from a church in a mountainous part of the central-eastern Abruzzo region, police said Friday. L'Aquila Bishop Giovanni D'Ercole put the extremely rare relic back together and police are seeking a few missing gold threads. "These three boys have our forgiveness and that of (the) pope (Francis)," the bishop said, thanking "all those who helped us find the reliquary", or relic case. The three addicts, in their late teens, were released Thursday after remembering where they threw the blood-soaked cloth away.

But they were cautioned and could still face charges.

Earlier Thursday police found the iron reliquary, without the cloth inside, near a drug-addict treatment facility in the town of Collemaggio. The three addicts, arrested after the container was found, had previously said they could not recall where they stashed the relic.

More than 50 police had been combing the woods around Collemaggio. 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. Police said the addicts, two of whom have a history of petty theft, were released for helping police with their inquiries and because they do not pose a flight risk.

The reliquary was taken along with a cross on Saturday night 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 will reportedly 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.