John Paul II`s blood to be relic in Polish church

The blood was drawn for medical tests at Rome`s Polyclinic shortly before John Paul`s death.

Warsaw: A vial containing blood drawn from
Pope John Paul II shortly before he died will be installed as
a relic in a Polish church soon after his beatification later
this year, an official said Monday.

Piotr Sionko, the spokesman for the John Paul II Center,
said the vial will be encased in crystal and built into the
altar of a church in the southern city of Krakow that is
opening in May.

The exact date of the opening is not yet known, but it
should be shortly after John Paul`s beatification at the
Vatican on May 1.

Sionko said the idea came from Cardinal Stanislaw
Dziwisz, the archbishop of Krakow and the longtime friend and
secretary of the late Polish-born pontiff. The blood was drawn
for medical tests at Rome`s Gemelli Polyclinic shortly before
John Paul`s death on April 2, 2005, and is now in Dziwisz`s
possession, he said.

"It was the cardinal`s proposal," Sionko said. "He is of
the opinion that this is the most precious relic of John Paul
II and should be the focal point of the church."

The church in the Lagiewniki district is part of a center
that will be devoted to cultivating the memory and the
teaching of the late pope, who was born Karol Wojtyla in
Wadowice, southern Poland, and spent decades in Krakow.

Many Catholics in the world are rejoicing over Pope
Benedict XVI`s announcement last week that he will beatify
John Paul on May 1. Beatification is the last major step
before possible sainthood.

The idea of displaying the pope`s relics has met with
some reservations, even inside the Catholic Church.

"The tradition of relics comes from medieval practices of
teaching the Bible through images and symbols," said the Rev
Krzysztof Madel, a Jesuit priest in Nowy Sacz who has publicly
questioned the usefulness of displaying John Paul`s blood.

"But in today`s rationalised world the message should rather
come through teaching about someone`s life."

After John Paul`s death, some Polish officials said they
hoped John Paul`s heart would be removed from his body and
returned to his homeland for burial. However, church officials
dismissed any possibility of dismembering the body, saying the
age had passed for that practice.

Dziwisz said on Friday that he has always been against
dividing of the body, but that "relics have always existed and
will always exist."