Thieves have stolen a vial containing the blood of the late Pope John Paul II from a church in Italy.
Police and sniffer dogs were out searching for the vial, which was stolen from the Church of St Peter of Ienca in the Abruzzo mountains sometime during the weekend, the Telegraph reported.
It contained a piece of material stained with blood, said to be taken from the Pope's clothing after an attempted assassination in 1981 when he was shot in St Peter's square.
Some believed a Satanic sect could be behind the theft.
"This period of the year is important in the Satanic calendar and culminates in the Satanic 'new year' on February 1. This sort of sacrilege often take place at this time of the year," Giovanni Panunzio, the national coordinator of an anti-occult group said.
"We hope that the stolen items are recovered as quickly as possible."
Italian Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana called it "a sacrilegious theft that was probably commissioned by someone".
The vial was donated to the church in May 2011 by Stanislaw Dzuwisz, a Polish cardinal and the Pope's former personal secretary.
John Paul, who died in 2005, loved the mountainous region, located in the east of Rome.
There are said to be a handful of vials containing his blood in the world.
In August 2012, another vial was stolen out of a Catholic priest's backpack while he was travelling on a train north of Rome.
It was later recovered by police.
- © Fairfax NZ News