Thieves Stole Pope John Paul II’s Blood

Vial filled with Pope's blood was taken from a church in mountains east of Rome

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L'Osservatore Romano / Associated Press

Pope Francis prays in front of the tomb of Pope John Paul II, at the Vatican Tuesday, April 2, 2013, on the eighth anniversary of the much-beloved pontiff's death.

A group of thieves broke into a church near RomeĀ favored by the late Pope John Paul II over the weekend and stole a vial filled with his blood.

Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005, was known to visit the Abruzzo region, east of Rome, to hike or ski or pray in the small stone church of San Pietro della Ienca, near the city L’Aquila. Six years after he died, his former secretary gave the local community some of the late Pontiff’s blood as a token of his love for that region. The blood was set in a gold and glass circular case and kept in the church.

A custodian of the church, Franca Corrieri, said Monday she discovered a broken window on Sunday morning and alerted authorities. The relic and a crucifix were taken in the heist. “In a sense, a person has been stolen,” she told Reuters.

Italian authorities said Monday they thought the theft was commissioned, NBC News reports, as many other valuables were left inside the church.

The Polish-born John Paul held the papacy for 27 years. He survived an assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square in May 1981, after which some of his blood was saved. He is due to be made a saint of the Roman Catholic Church later this year, which would boost the value of the stolen blood.