Rome -

A relic containing a scrap of cloth stained with the blood of Pope John Paul II has been stolen.

Police are investigating the possibility that a satanic sect may be involved in the theft from the church of San Pietro Della Lenca in the mountainous Abruzzo region of Italy, where the pope enjoyed skiing holidays before his death in 2005.

The only other item taken in the weekend raid was a crucifix, suggesting the theft may have been to order.

The thieves gained access to the chapel dedicated to the pope, soon to be sainted by the Catholic Church, by sawing through iron bars on the window.

The cloth in the relic - a sealed ampoule - dates back to the 1981 assassination attempt on John Paul II and was given to the chapel in 2011.

Police said they were following all leads. On Monday, 50 officers were combing the area with sniffer dogs. - Daily Mail