A reliquary with the blood of the late Pope John Paul II was stolen from a small church in the Abruzzo mountain region east of Rome over the weekend, Reuters reported Monday.
Franca Corrieri said that she had discovered a broken window at the Church of San Pietro della Ienca on Sunday morning and contacted police. Authorities found the gold reliquary and a crucifix missing.
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Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul's former private secretary, gave the local Abruzzo community some of the late pontiff's blood in 2011 as a token of his appreciation for the area and its people. John Paul used to hike and ski in the area and pray at the church.
The reliquary with John Paul's blood became more valuable when the Roman Catholic Church named him a saint in April.
Corrieri told Reuters she felt that the theft felt like a kidnapping.
"In a sense, a person has been stolen," Corrieri said.
Law enforcement told NBC News
that they believe the theft was commissioned because thieves only stole the relic with John Paul's blood and left many of other valuables inside the church behind.
There are only three vials of John Paul II's blood and it could be difficult to sell in the open market. Italian police told NBC News that the suspected thieves could be planning to use it for satanic worship.
John Paul II, who died in 2005, survived an assassination attempt in St. Peter's Square on May 13, 1981, according to Reuters. Some of his blood was preserved after the attempt.
Born Karol J. Wojtyla in Poland in 1920, John Paul II became pope in October 1978. His father was a non-commissioned officer in the Polish Army and his oldest brother, Edmund Wojtyla, was a physician.
He was called into the priesthood during the Nazi occupation of Poland and began taking courses in a clandestine seminary in 1944, despite that Germany forces closed higher education institutions in 1939.
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