Italian police have found a relic of Blessed Pope John Paul II that had been stolen from a church once frequented by the late Pontiff in central Italy.
The piece of cloth, stained with John Paul’s blood, was discovered on Friday in a garage belonging to two men, police told reporters this afternoon.
Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole, auxiliary bishop of L’Aquila, told a news conference he had pieced together the reliquary and the cloth after police found them in pieces on successive days.
He said the recovered piece of fabric was missing just a few filaments of cloth and gold thread, and that police were continuing to look for the rest of the relic together with a ‘Scientific Task Force’.
The cloth was a fragment of the cassock that John Paul was wearing on May 13, 1981 when he was shot in an assassination attempt, and given to the local community by Cardinal Stanslaw Dziwisz, the Polish Pope’s former secretary.
The relic and a gold crucifix were stolen last weekend from the small village church of San Pietro della Ienca in the Abruzzi mountains where John Paul II used to regularly go skiing. Police launched a major investigation to recover the relic, deploying 50 officers and sniffer dogs.
Yesterday morning, they apprehended three drug addicts in their late teens who had a history of petty theft but said they didn’t realize the value of what they had stolen. Many were mystified by the robbery as no money was stolen, leading some to speculate possible satanic motives.
Bishop D’Ercole thanked all those who had helped to recover the relic, adding: “I think John Paul has forgiven them. I think we have to do the same”.