Thieves who stole a reliquary containing blood from Pope John Paul II are being asked by an Italian Roman Catholic Church official to return the item.
Archbishop Giuseppe Petrocchi of L'Aquila stated in a letter sent out earlier this week asking whoever was responsible for stealing the gold container with blood to "give it back."
"I appeal to those who carried out this deplorable act…Give it back," said Petrocchi, reported Reuters.
Scheduled to be canonized as a saint later this year, Pope John Paul II reigned as pontiff for 27 years, dying while in office in 2005. He was succeeded by Pope Benedict XVI.
The reliquary containing the deceased Pontiff's blood likely derived from a garment of clothing Pope John Paul II was wearing in 1981 when he narrowly survived an attempted assassination.
Last weekend, it was reported that the relic was stolen from the Church of San Pietro della Ienca, where it had been located since 2011.
"Italian authorities said they believe the theft was commissioned, as thieves stole only the relic and left many other valuables behind at the church," reported ABC News.
"Only three of John Paul II's relics contain his blood and they are all considered of great religious value."
Italian police and others have speculated that the relic may have been stolen by a group intent on using it for a Satanic ritual.
"It's possible that there could be Satanic sects behind the theft of the reliquary," said Giovanni Panunzio, the national coordinator of Osservatorio Antiplagio, an anti-Occult group. "This period of the year is important in the Satanic calendar and culminates in the Satanic 'new year' on Feb 1. This sort of sacrilege often take place at this time of the year. We hope that the stolen items are recovered as quickly as possible."
The recent theft of the John Paul blood relic is not the first time an item associated with the late Pope has been stolen, according to Nick Squires of the UK Telegraph.
"In Aug 2012, another relic containing a vial of the late Pope's blood was stolen from a Catholic priest while he was travelling on a train north of Rome," wrote Squires. "The relic was in his backpack, which was swiped by thieves but later recovered in a thicket of cane grass by police."