Friday May 4, 2012

STOCKBRIDGE -- The National Shrine of The Divine Mercy has obtained a small cloth soaked in Pope John Paul II's blood -- the only church in the United States to have such a relic and one of three globally, including the Vatican.

Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, the Marians' provincial superior, made the announcement after Sunday Mass, on the eve of the first anniversary of John Paul's beatification in Rome on May 1, 2011. The cloth is about a half-inch square.

Eventually, Chwalek plans to permanently display the cloth in the shrine, once a marble case where it will be placed is complete.

"We are so pleased about this recent gift, and cannot wait to to share with all who wish to view it," Chwalek said.

In October 2011, Chwalek received the cloth at the second World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Krakow, Poland. Cardinal Archbishop of Kraków Stanislaw Dziwisz gave it to him after it was dipped in John Paul's blood from a vial that was given to him from the Vatican.

When John Paul died, the Vatican acquired the blood from the Rome hospital, Policlinico Gemelli, where the former pontiff was regularly treated.

Sunday, at the National Shrine in Stockbridge, it was standing-room only because Sr. Marie Simon-Pierre Normand -- the French nun who the Vatican believes was cured of Parkinson's disease by praying to John Paul exactly eight weeks after his death on April 2, 2005 -- was in attendance. She spoke about her claims of miraculous healing. This miracle paved the way for John Paul's beatification and soon to be canonization.

During the outdoor beatification ceremony in Rome in 2011, Normand carried the vial of blood, encased in a large silver ornament through St. Peter's Square.

Among the first to publicly venerate the relic, along with Normand, was 18-month-old Lena Busalachi-Rogers, the only child ever baptized at the Shrine since its inception in 1960.

The National Shrine is located off Eden Hill Road in Stockbridge.