One of the truly weird aspects of Roman Catholicism is their preservation and veneration of body parts of those declared by the church to be saints, seemingly in the belief that viewing and praying to those bits increases your chances of having your prayers answered. This article lists some of the body parts that have been preserved, including (if you can imagine it) Jesus’s foreskin, It is a macabre practice, to put it mildly. This news item about a brain fragment of a saint being stolen raises the weirdness all the way to 11.
Police set up roadblocks in northern Italy after a thief posing as a pilgrim stole tiny fragments of the brain of John Bosco, one of the country’s most revered saints.
The thief entered the church, named after the 19th century saint in Castelnuovo, near Turin, last Friday (June 2), and left with a glass case containing the relic of the saint, who is also known as Don Bosco.
Devotees often visit the church to pray before the relic kept behind the altar. On Sunday, pilgrims gathered at the Don Bosco Basilica to pray for its return.
My question is why anyone would do such a thing? Are they planning to hold it hostage for ransom, as the church fears? And how would one fix a price for such a thing? Is there a black market for the body parts of saints? Did the thieves want to have private access to the relic? But if they are devout Catholics, wouldn’t they think that their god would be kind of ticked off at them for stealing and no amount to praying to the relic would counter that negative?
Perhaps the thieves thought that the gold-looking container of the relic (known as a reliquary) was valuable, in which case they may throw away the contents and try to flog the container. Or maybe they are mere vandals seeking to create mischief, like youths who paint graffiti or vandalize cemeteries.
The whole thing is bizarre.