Police in Italy are investigating the missing relic of the brain of St. John Bosco, which was reportedly stolen from its reliquary on Friday night.
The Salesians, the religious order founded by St. John Bosco, issued desperate pleas for prayers for its return after it was discovered missing June 2.
The reliquary was kept in the Basilica of John Bosco in Castelnuovo, fewer than 20 miles east of Turin. It contained a small piece of the saint’s brain.
“We are very saddened, along with the many devotees … for what happened,” Fr. Ezio Orsini, rector of the Basilica, said in a statement.
“We trust that John Bosco can touch the heart of (whomever committed this act) as he transformed the lives of young he met,” he said. “We are also confident that though you can steal a relic of John Bosco, as has happened, you can not steal John Bosco from us and from the many pilgrims who daily visit these places.”
St. John Bosco was a 19th century Italian priest who had a particular love and apostolate for at-risk and underserved youth. Today, the order serves youth throughout the world primarily in schools, homeless shelters, and community centers.
The basilica, located in the saint’s birthplace, has experienced some other minor thefts in recent weeks, though nothing of spiritual value.
Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin also commented on the missing relic, saying it was news “you would never want to hear, because it makes us think of a profound moral misery” that someone would steal something of spiritual and devotional value, he told an Italian news source.
The archbishop said that he asked all of his priests to say a special prayer during their Pentecost Masses for the Salesian family and the recovery of the relic, so that it can “continue to be a point of devotion for the millions of faithful who come to the sanctuary dedicated to him.”
He implored whomever stole the relic to return it immediately.
“I also invite those who have stolen the relic to return it immediately, without conditions: in order to close this painful chapter and in order to continue to honor the memory of John Bosco in his native place. ”