Earth & Conservation

The Preserved Brain Bits of a Revered Italian Saint Have Gone Missing

Satanic rituals or ransom may lie behind the theft of a relic of St. John Bosco, who founded the Society of St. Francis de Sales to help the poor during the Industrial Revolution.

Andrea Cherchi
Preserved brain pieces of St. John Bosco are kept at the basilica of Castelnuovo, near Turin, Italy. | Andrea Cherchi

However, Filipetto said he could not confirm the details of the case.

Indeed, the case is still a mystery, said Fr Francesco Cereda, vicar of the Rector Major. (Cereda is the vicar, who takes the Rector Major's place whenever he is absent or impeded; he's second from the top of this Salesian hierarchy.)

"To date, there is nothing new in the investigations regarding those responsible for the theft of Don Bosco's relics," Cereda said.

Born in Castelnuovo, Italy, on Aug. 16, 1815, Don Bosco devoted his life to helping deprived children. In 1859, he founded the Society of St. Francis de Sales, better known as the Salesians or Salesians of Don Bosco, to help the poor and homeless children during the Industrial Revolution. The religious order has grown to become the second-largest order in the Catholic Church. According to Salesian Missions, the order is regarded as the single largest provider of vocational and technical training in the world, operating more than 3,200 schools and technical training centers, more than 70 colleges, more than 90 clinics and a hospital, and more than 330 orphanages and shelters.

Don Bosco died in 1888 and was canonized in 1934 by Pope Pius XI. He is one of the most venerated saints, and each year, more than 600,000 pilgrims visit the basilica of Castelnuovo, according to La Stampa.

Body parts belonging to holy figures are often displayed in Catholic churches as "tangible elements to favor the invocation of the saint," Cereda said. "Don Bosco is loved and invoked for the young people, especially the poor and marginalized," he added, referring to invocations, or prayers.

The person who took the relic should "give it back immediately and without conditions," Monsignor Cesare Nosiglia, archbishop of Turin, said in the statement, "so that this painful page can be turned, and we can duly continue to honor Don Bosco's memory in his rightful birthplace," he added, as translated to English.

This is not the first time that thieves have targeted body parts of saints. Past raids of holy relics include the preserved heart of St. Laurence O'Toole, Dublin's patron saint, which was stolen in 2012 from the city's cathedral, as well as a vial of blood from Pope John Paul II, taken in 2014 from a chapel near L'Aquila, in central Italy.

Original article on Live Science

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