A relic of St. John Bosco was stolen last week from Don Bosco Basilica in northern Italy.
The thief posed as a pilgrim before making off with the glass case containing the relic from the church in Casetlnuovo, Italy, Religion News Service reported. Relics are the physical remains or part of the belongings of a venerated person and often displayed in Catholic churches. The relic of St. John Bosco was pieces of his brain.
“I 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, referring to the saint by his common nickname.
Worshippers pray in front of the relic, which was kept behind the altar at the church. Over the weekend, people gathered to pray for its return. Police are concerned the thief may have taken the relic to extort a ransom for it, and they are investigating the area inside the church near the relic was kept. It was stolen just before the church closed for the evening, Catholic Culture reported, and police are looking at surveillance footage.
St. John Bosco was ordained a priest in 1841 and was known for ministry to the poor, particularly young men and boys. He used skills he acquired as a child to entertain them with magic tricks. He was responsible for negotiating rights for boys working as apprentices and founded the Society of St. Francis de Sales, which would continue his works of charity. St. John Bosco died in 1888 and was canonized in 1934. He is the patron saint of apprentices, schoolchildren, juvenile delinquents, magicians, and editors and publishers.
“We trust that Don Bosco can touch the heart of whomever committed this act and make them turn around, just as he was able to transform the lives of the young people he met,” said the basilica’s rector, Fr. Ezio Orsini, according to Catholic Herald.