Satanism has been blamed as possibly behind the theft of a reliquary containing Pope John Paul II’s blood from a small church in central Italy at the weekend, but not everyone is convinced.
Although police have yet to reveal suspects, Italian media, quoting experts in the occult, said on Jan. 27 that Satanists were probable suspects after it emerged that only the vial of blood and a crucifix were taken from the church of San Pietro della Ienca.
Experts on the occult noted that the night it was stolen apparently coincides with the beginning of a period of preparation for Satanism’s new year which begins Feb. 1.
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A “flourishing market” within satanic cults for religious statues is also said to exist, according to an Italian anti-occult group which says a relic such as the one stolen at the weekend can fetch tens of thousands of euros.
The crime, which took place in the mountainous Abruzzi region often frequented by the late pontiff, comes ahead of John Paul II’s canonization on April 27.
Not even money from the collection box was taken in what the local archbishop condemned as a “sacrilegious theft” and a “despicable act.”
But not everyone agrees with the Satanism theory. Professor Massimo Introvigne, an Italian sociologist and specialist in the occult, said such assertions are mere speculation.
“Beware of Italian journalists because they like to connect Satanism to a lot of stuff,” he told Newsmax. “My gut feeling is that it’s more to do with groups [of] fringe Catholics.”
By these he means Catholics who are “half in, half outside” the Catholic Church and who normally follow “apocalyptic private revelations” not recognized by the Church and have “illegal” chapels.
“Some of these groups might be enthusiastic for such important relics and to have them in their private chapels,” Introvigne said. He added that these groups are mostly “hidden” and they may “await the end of the world, not believe Pope Francis is the real Pope, and follow this and that ‘revelation’ said to be of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.”
He maintained there are probably “several hundred” such semi-clandestine groups in Italy and would bet “on one of these groups” taking part in the weekend robbery. He dismissed the likelihood of Satanists because, although they take hosts, Introvigne had never heard of any Satanist group abusing relics.
He also believes that “official” Satanism — legal groups with websites and newsletters — is actually on the decline in Italy as a whole, although that’s not the case with “juvenile Satanism” involving teenagers and young adults.
“It’s difficult to find statistics, but there seems to be a growing juvenile phenomenon,” he said, adding that police only take an interest if there’s a crime. But he also ruled out these groups as they don’t have money to commission a theft, and probably “don’t even know who John Paul II was.”
Some have suggested a financial motive might have been behind the theft, but this, too, is thought unlikely as it’s unclear who a buyer might be.
Introvigne and others also point out that although exorcisms in Italy have reportedly become more widespread, and incidents in Italy have historically been very high compared to other parts of Europe, they should not be confused with Satanism.
“Satanists don’t go to exorcists,” he said. Those who are demonically possessed, he added, are usually good, church-going Catholics. “Satan is taking an interest in them rather than vice-versa.”
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But not everyone subscribes to that view. "Diabolical possessions are on the rise also because of too much occultism," Father Francesco Bamonte, head of the Association of International Exorcists, said in May last year. He lamented that there are too few exorcists to deal with them.
Still, whatever dark forces might be behind the crime, the local archbishop, Giuseppe Petrocchi, has said “hope is growing” in him that the “precious relic” will soon be returned. And he has called for “fervent prayer” to ensure that it will be.
Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.
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