IMPORTANT UPDATE at end of article!
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Pasquale Corriere, who heads the association that looks after the small church in the mountains east of Rome where the relic was kept, said police had interrogated the two men who they believed were drug addicts. Apparently, they threw the relic away, thinking it was worthless.
They "did not understand the relic's value" and "cannot remember where they threw away the precious loot", the police told the ANSA news agency.
The men claimed they threw it into some bushes near a drug rehabilitation center in L'Aquila, about 75 miles north of Rome, and specially trained police are now searching the area with the hopes of finding the small piece of bloodstained cloth.
Authorities also searched the mens' apartment and were able to recover the small crucifix that was stolen along with the reliquary last Saturday.
One of only a few in the world, the relic consists of a piece of cloth from the bloodstained clothing worn by the pope when he was shot in St. Peter's Square on May 13, 1981. It was given to the small church in the mountains in the Abruzzo region by John Paul's former secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, now archbishop of Krakow in Poland, who wanted them to have it as a token of John Paul's great love for the region where he spent so many peaceful holidays.
UPDATE: 1/31/14 - 3:24 p.m. Italian police say they have recovered the missing relic in the basement of the apartment where the thieves lived. The tiny piece of fabric is said to be intact except for a few missing filaments. Because John Paul would certainly have forgiven the thieves, we are being asked to do so as well.
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