By Courtney Mares
The liquefaction of the blood of the early Church martyr St. Januarius occurred Saturday amid the coronavirus lockdown, leading the Archbishop of Naples to bless the city with the miraculous relic.
“Dear friends, I have a big announcement to make: even in this time of coronavirus, the Lord through the intercession of St. Januarius has liquified the blood!” Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe said May 2.
Cardinal Sepe, the Archbishop of Naples, offered a Mass via video livestream from the Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary to celebrate the recurring miracle, and then used the relic of the liquified blood to bless the city.
“How many times our saint has intervened to save us from the plague, from cholera. St. Januarius is the true soul of Naples,” he said in his homily.
St. Januarius, or San Gennaro in Italian, the patron of Naples, was a bishop of the city in the third century, whose bones and blood are preserved in the cathedral as relics. He is believed to have been martyred during Diocletian persecution.
The reputed miracle is locally known and accepted, though has not been the subject of official Church recognition. The liquefaction reportedly happens at least three times a year: Sept. 19, the saint’s feast day, the Saturday before the first Sunday of May, and Dec. 16, the anniversary of the 1631 eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
During the miracle, the dried, red-colored mass confined to one side of the reliquary becomes blood that covers the entire glass. In local lore, the failure of the blood to liquefy signals war, famine, disease or other disaster.
“Naples has never given up in the face of the misfortunes that have affected it,” Sepe said.
The cardinal praised the health care workers who are serving those infected by the coronavirus in the city. Naples is the capital of the region of Campania, where 4,459 people have been documented with COVID-19 by the Italian Ministry of Health.
“But there is another possible epidemic that worries me in the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city,” Sepe said, referring to the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia.
“There are those who are good at making a fortune in times of epidemic. … Let’s move, intervene immediately, because the underworld is faster than our bureaucracy. The Camorra does not wait. It is up to us to get rid of all [criminal] organizations. We must overcome and affirm the right to hope,” the cardinal said.
Amid Italy’s lockdown, anti-mafia experts have warned that Italy’s criminal organizations could take advantage of the redirection of police resources, and profit from the government stimulus that could inadvertently fund mafia-controlled industries.
The coronavirus lockdown also prevented the traditional procession for the miracle of St. Januarius from taking place. This procession had even continued in Naples during World War II, according to ACI Stampa.
Public Masses have not been allowed in Italy for the past eight weeks under the country’s coronavirus restrictions.
The president of the Italian bishops’ conference, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti said May 2 that the bishops had reached an agreement with the government, and that he expects public Masses to resume “in the coming weeks” if the infection curve flattens.
“As a Church, we have certainly shared in suffering the limitations imposed to protect the health of all,” he said.