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Associated Press
VATICAN CITY – Roman Catholic officials reminded the faithful Monday it is sacrilegious to buy or sell religious relics, after news reports and a church Web site suggested fans of Pope John Paul II could get a piece of his white cassock by making an online donation.
For several weeks, the diocese of Rome has been offering the chance to order a relic of the late pontiff from the Web site dedicated to his cause for beatification. Users click on the initiative and an e-mail is sent to the diocese requesting a piece of the late pope’s cassock.
No money is exchanged. But next to the relic initiative, users can click on “Freewill offering for the cause,” which provides a host of bank transfer coordinates or credit card instructions for those who want to make a donation for the beatification effort.
On Monday, the diocese of Rome reissued an interview with Monsignor Marco Frisina, director of the diocese’s liturgy office, in which he said it was sacrilegious to buy or sell relics.
“You can absolutely never buy or sell relics of any type because they are something sacred, they don’t have a price,” he said. “The problem of the sale of relics is very diffuse on the Internet, and let me say this is a sacrilege.”
Diocesan officials said they reproduced the interview, which originally appeared in the official magazine of John Paul’s beatification cause “Totus Tuus,” after Italian media reports suggested the faithful could buy parts of John Paul’s white cassock online.
Private television Mediaset, for example, headlined its Monday story “Wojtyla’s clothes sold on the Web,” following the Italian media practice of referring to John Paul by his given name, Karol Wojtyla.
The interpretation that cassock pieces were for sale may have arisen from a banner running along the campaign’s Web site from the cleric spearheading the beatification cause, Monsignor Slawomir Oder, which linked the distribution of the relics to cash donations.
“I would like to cordially thank you for the generous donation you have made to support the cause of beatification and canonization for the Servant of God John Paul II and I apologize in advance for the delay in sending out the relics,” Oder wrote.
The banner, which ran on the site early Monday, was no longer active later in the day.
John Paul died April 2, 2005, after a nearly 27-year pontificate. Less than two months later, Pope Benedict XVI waived the traditional five-year waiting period and allowed the beatification cause to begin, responding to the chants of “sainthood immediately” that erupted during John Paul’s funeral.
The diocese of Rome, which carried out the primary investigation into John Paul’s life and virtues, handed its dossier to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints on the second anniversary of John Paul’s death.
It is now up to the Vatican to decide whether to recommend to Benedict that John Paul be beatified, the last major step before possible sainthood. The Vatican already is studying a possible miracle needed for beatification: the inexplicable cure of a French nun afflicted with Parkinson’s disease.
The cult surrounding relics dates to the earliest years of Christianity, with relics representing a physical memory of the deceased.
The church has two classifications: corporeal relics, or parts of the body, and non-corporeal relics, which are items that were in contact with the deceased’s body, such as a robe. Corporeal relics can be venerated publicly only for someone who has been beatified, but the faithful may pray to non-corporeal relics for a person being considered for beatification.
On the Web:
John Paul’s beatification cause: http://www.vicariatusurbis.org
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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