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Relic with late pope's blood stolen in Cologne

A cloth with a drop of papal blood has gone missing from the Cologne Cathedral, German police said. A churchgoer noticed the theft and alerted officials, who urged the thieves to return the relic.

The perpetrators dislodged a glass container holding the blood of John Paul II from the base of the pope's statue, police said on Sunday. The theft took place during the previous night.

"Although the material value is low, the spiritual value is a lot bigger," the cathedral's provost Gerd Bachner said, according to the police statement.

The theft was first noticed by a visitor who alerted the cathedral usher on Sunday.

The Cologne Cathedral has housed the cloth since 2013, honoring the late pontiff who visited the church in 1980. The relic was placed in the container so believers could touch it.

'Think it over'

In the Sunday statement, Bachner

praised John Paul II

as a man who "moved the whole world."

"I see this theft not only as an impious offense, but also as degrading of this great man after his death," the Catholic archdeacon said.

He also urged the perpetrators to "think it over and return the relic."

Polish-born John Paul II lead the Catholic Church from 1978 until his death in 2005, when he was succeeded by the German-born Benedict XVI.

The current Pope Francis

declared John Paul

II saint in 2014.

dj/bw (Reuters, dpa, KNA, epd)