The Associated Press is reporting that Father Augusto Baldini was traveling out of Rome on a train and had a reliquary in his backpack that contained blood taken from the late Pope John Paul II when he was shot in St. Peter's Square in 1981.
Father Baldini was heading to the port of Civitavecchia where the relic was due to go on display.
“One of the thieves distracted me, telling me I was on the wrong train,” Father Baldini said. “I turned round to look, and it was then that his accomplices stole my backpack.”
The three men jumped off the train in the town of Marina di Cerveteri and disappeared.
Desperate to retrieve the stolen treasure, Father Baldini immediately reported the theft to railway police who launched an hours-long search for the thieves and the relic. In the meantime, Father prayed that the priceless relic would be found intact.
His prayers were answered hours later when police found the relic laying in a stand of cane grass near the railway station.
Police believe the thieves either did not appreciate the value of the relic, or tried to hide it in the grass with the intention of returning for it later.
“Maybe they thought there was a computer in the backpack,” said Father Baldini.
The relic, which is contained in a beautiful reliquary in the form of an open book with gilded pages, went on display as planned.
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