Police have recovered the relic of Blessed Pope John Paul II after it had been stolen from a church in central Italy.
The piece of cloth, stained with the blood of the late Pontiff, was discovered on Friday in a garage belonging to two men who admitted to stealing the reliquary yesterday.
Police revealed the news at a joint news conference with Church officials in L'Aquila, east of Rome, this afternoon.
Bishop Giovanni D'Ercole, auxiliary bishop of L'Aquila, told reporters he had pieced together the reliquary and the cloth after police found them in pieces on successive days, according to Reuters.
He said the recovered piece of fabric was missing just a few filaments of cloth and gold thread, and that police were continuing to look for the rest of the relic together with a 'Scientific Task Force'.
The cloth was a fragment of the cassock that John Paul was wearing on May 13, 1981 when he was shot in an assassination attempt, and given to the local community by Cardinal Stanslaw Dziwisz, the Polish Pope's former secretary.
The relic and a gold crucifix were stolen last weekend from the small village church of San Pietro della Ienca in the Abruzzi mountains where John Paul II used to regularly go skiing. Police launched a major investigation to recover the relic, deploying 50 officers and sniffer dogs.
Yesterday morning, they apprehended three drug addicts in their late teens who had a history of petty theft but said they didn't realize the value of what they had stolen. Many were mystified by the robbery as no money was stolen, leading some to speculate possible satanic motives.
Bishop D'Ercole said: "I think John Paul has forgiven them. I think we have to do the same". He thanked all those "who have worked to recover the relic."