What can you say about this news report that a vial of Pope John Paul II’s blood has been stolen from a village church?
A vial containing the blood of the late Pope John Paul II was stolen from a village church in a mountainous area east of Rome, sparking a regionwide manhunt that includes more than 50 police and a team of dogs specialized in tracking.
In 2011, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul’s former secretary who is now the archbishop of Krakow in Poland, gave the community near the church the vial of blood as a gesture to commemorate the former pope’s connection with the area. The blood was first set aside in 1981, after an attempt on John Paul’s life in St. Peter’s Square.
What is more grotesque than stealing the blood is that the blood was being kept at all. The thieves’ reasoning at least may be somewhat rational because apparently “Once John Paul is elevated to sainthood, artifacts from his life will increase in value.” In other words, they may be hoping to make a killing (har!).
This raises the question of why the blood was taken from him at all back in 1981. Do they routinely collect and keep and distribute papal blood? Or only if the betting is good that he will later be made a saint? Also was it taken only when he was close to death, like in 1981, or also near the end of his life when he had decided that he did not want extraordinary life-saving measures?
The whole thing is a more than a little macabre but it is of a pattern with the Catholic obsession with possessing the body parts and possessions of saints, referred to as relics, thinking that they have miraculous powers.