Taken from: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/06/05/saint-brain-stolen-italy/102523854/
ROME — Police set up roadblocks in northern Italy after a thief
posing as a pilgrim stole tiny fragments of the brain of John Bosco, one
of the country’s most revered saints.
The thief entered the
church, named after the 19th-century saint in Castelnuovo, near Turin,
last Friday and left with a glass case containing the relic of the
saint, who is also known as Don Bosco.
Devotees often visit the
church to pray before the relic kept behind the altar. On Sunday,
pilgrims gathered at the Don Bosco Basilica to pray for its return.
invite whoever took it to give it back immediately, without any
conditions so we can close this painful page and continue to honor the
memory of Don Bosco worthily in his birthplace,” said Archbishop Cesare
Nosiglia of Turin.
St. John Bosco is venerated for
having dedicated his life to helping poor, deprived children. Born in
Castelnuovo in 1815, he founded the Salesian religious order. He died in
1888 and was canonized in 1934.
Nosiglia said in a statement the news was something “you never wanted to hear.”
makes you think of the profound moral misery of someone who would steal
a ‘sign’ that’s been left and conserved for the devotion and the faith
of all,” he said.
Police worry the thief may seek a ransom for the
return of the saint’s brain and there has also been speculation in the
Italian media that it may be used for a satanic rite in which Christian
symbols are defiled.
Body parts belonging to saints are often
displayed and revered in Catholic churches in Europe. They have also
been targeted by thieves. In 2014, a vial of blood from Pope John Paul
II was stolen.
The Rev. Moreno Filipetto, a spokesman for the
Salesian order in northern Italy, told Vatican Radio: “You can take away
a relic of Don Bosco, but you can’t take away Don Bosco from the church
or the world.”
Police are continuing their investigation, and the
public can no longer access the area inside the church where the relic
was previously displayed.