Police hunt cerebral relic of saint Don Bosco
5 June 2017
The empty reliquary of Don Bosco
ROME --Thieves who snatched a flask housing a fragment of the brain of Don Bosco, the saintly founder of the Salesian worldwide order of Roman Catholic priests, from a Basilica in the Piedmontese province of Asti could demand a hefty ransom from the Church for the return of the hallowed relic, police say.
The cerebral relic was stolen Friday evening from behind the main altar in the basilica at Castelnuovo Don Bosco, a small town named after the saint, Giovanni Bosco, who was born there in 1815 and died in 1888. Officers from the paramilitary Carabinieri probing the
sacrilegious heist told reporters they “exclude no path,” in their hunt for the grey matter including a possible ransom demand, an attack by satanists and the possibility the thieves merely wish to sell the silver urn containing the relic, which was housed in a small chapel built on the exact spot where the saint was born.
Police threw up road blocks in the area famed for the powerful Asti spumante sparkling white wine and a nationwide hunt has been launched as closed circuit tv footage near the church was perused.
The last people to see the urn containing the relic were a group of pilgrims from Lombardy who visited the church around 7 p.m. on Friday, police sources said. The Salesian fathers only noticed the theft later as they began closing the basilica and they immediately alerted
The thief or thieves evidently climbed over a gate in front of the shrine where the relic was housed and removed the flask from a small cupboard. The flask was small enough to be slipped into a pocket, Il Messaggero newspaper said.
The rector of the Basilica of Colle Don Bosco, Father Ezio Orsini said “one hopes that this is just a laddish prank.”
“We trust that Don Bosco can touch the heart of whoever carried this out to make them retrace their steps just as he was capable of transforming the lives of young people who he met,” Fr. Orsini told
state-run RAI television.
“It may be possible to steal a relic but one can’t steal Don Bosco from us and the many pilgrims who visit this place every day.”
The Archbishop of Turin, Monsignor Cesare Nosiglia, concurred. “This is one of those news items you never want to hear,” he said, “it makes one think of deep moral poverty.”
It is the second time a relic of Don Bosco has been stolen. In 2011 a small bone reputedly from one of the saint’s hands was stolen from a church in the town of Alassio. The Salesians work in as many as 90 countries.