- (Photo: Reuters)
A container that holds some of the blood of the late Pope John Paul II has been stolen from a church in Italy.
Franca Corrieri told Reuters she called the police after discovering a broken window at the church of San Pietro della Ienca early Sunday morning. Corrieri serves as a custodian of the church, which is located east of Rome in the mountains of Abruzzo near the city of L'Aquila.
When they entered the building they discovered that a crucifix and the gold case that holds the blood were missing. Dozens of police officers and some sniffer dogs then swarmed the area to search for clues.
The blood was given to the local community by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who is now the archbishop of Krakow in Poland but formerly served as John Paul II's secretary. The former pope reportedly loved the area and would sometimes go there to ski, hike and pray in the church.
Italian authorities believe someone commissioned the theft, reports NBC News, because the burglars did not take other valuable items that were inside the church at the time of the break-in. Police also said the blood may have been stolen for use in Satanic rituals, because to sell the blood would be a difficult task.
Only three of the former pope's relics contain his blood.
Corrieri told Reuters the theft felt more like a "kidnapping."
"In a sense, a person has been stolen," she said.
John Paul II led the Roman Catholic Church from 1978 until he passed away in 2005. He is set to become a Catholic saint in April, and will be canonized along with Pope John XXIII, who died in 1963.