Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Brain Heist

Normally when you think of a heist, you think of conventionally valuable targets like money or jewels. But a thief in Italy recently made off with a far more unusual item - the remains of a Roman Catholic saint's brain. A glass case containing fragments of the brain of Saint John Bosco was recently stolen from a church near Turin that houses his relics.

Police set up roadblocks in northern Italy after a thief posing as a pilgrim stole tiny fragments of the brain of John Bosco, one of the country’s most revered saints.

The thief entered the church, named after the 19th century saint in Castelnuovo, near Turin, last Friday (June 2), and left with a glass case containing the relic of the saint, who is also known as Don Bosco.

Devotees often visit the church to pray before the relic kept behind the altar. On Sunday, pilgrims gathered at the Don Bosco Basilica to pray for its return.

“I invite whoever took it to give it back immediately, without any conditions so we can close this painful page and continue to honor the memory of Don Bosco worthily in his birthplace,” said Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin.

While relics like this are unique, it seems to me that they would be hard to sell. For one thing, they're instantly recognizable. A collector might be interested, at least in theory, but it would have to be the kind of collector who's fine with never actually displaying their relics to anyone. So the ransom angle probably makes the most sense. It's a way to make some money from the theft that doesn't require the thief to find a buyer.

There's also an outside possibility that the relic might have been stolen for some sort of magical purpose. Personally I'm not sure what I would do with part of a saint's brain preserved since the late 1800's, but someone particularly devout might consider it powerful. I suppose someone could use it to connect with the spirit of the saint, but if said saint doesn't approve of theft (which is likely) they may not be able to do much besides make him angry.

Catholics around the world are praying for the relic's safe return. It should go without saying that if you do somehow happen to come across it, notify the church immediately so it can be returned to its proper place.

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