Relic containing John Paul II's blood stolen from Italian church
Pope John Paul II blesses the faithful during the weekly general audience in the courtyard of his summer residence of Castelgandolfo, in the outskirts of Rome, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2004. (AP / Pier Paolo Cito)
Published Monday, January 27, 2014 1:24PM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 27, 2014 2:05PM EST
ROME -- Police are searching an Italian mountain area beloved by Pope John Paul II for a stolen relic bearing his blood.
Vatican Radio decried the "sacrilegious theft" from tiny San Pietro della Ienca church near the Gran Sasso part of the Apennine mountains, where John Paul used to hike and ski.
Carabinieri paramilitary police Col. Andrea Ronchey in nearby L'Aquila told The Associated Press Monday that the relic -- a bit of blood-soaked cloth kept inside a painted metal cross -- was last seen on Thursday in the church.
John Paul, who died in 2005 and will be made a saint April 27 during a Vatican ceremony, had celebrated Mass in the church.