L'AQUILA, Italy, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- A relic containing the blood of Pope John Paul II was stolen from a church in central Italy, prompting a massive police search, officials said.
More than 50 police officers Monday searched the area surrounding the church of San Pietro della Ienca in the mountainous Abruzzo region of Italy for a relic taken during a burglary at the church this past weekend, the BBC reported.
Sniffing dogs were also being used in the search.
"We are very displeased by the theft. We have no idea of who could have done it. The police are carrying out a search," Paola Corrieri, a member of a local cultural association that supports the church, told the BBC.
The relic was taken along with a cross, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
Savino Guarino, provincial commander of the paramilitary Carabinieri police, said he feared the thieves may have dismantled the relic.
Corrieri told the BBC Pope John Paul II visited the church often when away from the Vatican.
"This is an area that John Paul II visited often, with his secretary and not too many bodyguards. We feel very connected to him. After his death, his secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dszuwisz, came and told us that he wanted this church to become a sanctuary," Corrieri said.