Papal relic case found but blood-soaked cloth still missing
Italian police hunting for a stolen relic bearing the blood of Pope John Paul ll have recovered its gold and glass case, officials say.
But the cloth stained with the blood itself is still missing.
The cloth came from a cassock that John Paul was wearing in 1981, when a gunman tried to assassinate him.
Three suspects, who allegedly stole the relic from the church in the Abruzzo region but threw the cloth away not realising its value, were arrested.
A search is under way on the outskirts of L'Aquila city. It is concentrated on an area built for people made homeless by the region's 2009 earthquake.
The relic - a framed, tiny square of cloth - was stolen last weekend during a burglary of the San Pietro della Ienca church in the mountains of Abruzzo.
It was a place of special significance to the ski-loving Pope who died in 2005.
Pasquale Corriere, head of the association that looks after the small church, told the Reuters news agency that two suspects had taken police to the area where they had dumped the reliquary.
The case was found, but the cloth was no longer inside, he said.
However a small crucifix which was stolen along with the reliquary was recovered.
The ANSA news agency - citing police sources - said that the thieves "did not understand the relic's value".
"[They] cannot remember where they threw away the precious loot," the agency reported.