Thieves have broken into a small church in the mountains east of Rome and stolen a reliquary containing the blood of the late Pope John Paul II, reports Reuters on the ABC.
Franca Corrieri said she had discovered a broken window early on Sunday morning and had called the police. When they entered the small stone church, the gold reliquary and a crucifix were missing.
John Paul, who died in 2005, loved the mountains in the Abruzzo region east of Rome and would sometimes secretly slip away from the Vatican to hike or ski there and pray in the church.
Polish-born John Paul, who reigned for 27 years, is due to be made a saint of the Roman Catholic Church in April, meaning the relic will become more noteworthy and valuable.
In 2011, John Paul's former private secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, gave the local Abruzzo community some of the late pontiff's blood as a token of the love he had felt for the mountainous area. It was put in a gold and glass circular case and kept in a niche of the small mountain church of San Pietro della Ienca, near the city of L'Aquila.
Ms Corrieri said the incident felt more like a kidnapping'than a theft. 'In a sense, a person has been stolen,' she said.