Rome - A vial containing the blood of late Pope John Paul II has been stolen, a volunteer from the chapel in central Italy where the holy relic being kept said on Monday.
"I think it was stolen on order," Pasquale Corriere, head of the cultural association supporting the church of San Pietro della Ienca, told dpa.
"Let's hope that those who did it will have second thoughts."
The relic was last seen on Thursday, and was likely stolen between Friday and Saturday, when the chapel was closed due to a storm.
The thieves broke protective iron bars on a window to gain entrance to the chapel, retrieving the vial and a crucifix but ignoring a money collection box also kept in the vicinity.
The vial - one of three such relics in the world - was being kept in the sanctuary in San Pietro della Ienca, a hamlet in the central region of Abruzzo, since 2011.
It was a gift from John Paul II's former secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz.
The Polish-born pontiff - who is due to be made a saint at a 27 April ceremony expected to bring millions of pilgrims to the Vatican - was a fan of the Abruzzo region, where he used to go skiing and hiking.
Police said more than 50 officers and several sniffer dogs were hunting for the priceless relic.