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Pope John Paul II's Blood Goes On Tour, With Planned Stops In Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore

06/18/2014 02:23 am ET | Updated Jun 18, 2014

A vial containing the blood of Pope John Paul II -- now St. John Paul II -- is going on tour, starting with a visit to Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross this weekend.

The blood is from the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, and is housed in an elaborate reliquary.

The relic was given to the Knights of Columbus, which established the shrine in 2011. The shrine's website explains the design of the reliquary housing the blood:

At the center of the reliquary is a glass ampoule that contains the Holy Father’s blood, which remains in a liquid state. Surrounding the relic is a nimbus decorated with 12 red stones representing the Twelve Apostles and with rays projecting downward. The design evokes John Paul II’s homily during the Mass dedicating the Divine Mercy Shrine on August 17, 2002. Citing the Diary of Saint Faustina, he said, “From here there must go forth ‘the spark which will prepare the world for [Jesus’] final coming.’ This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world.” The late pope’s likeness is depicted just beneath the relic, and at the base of the reliquary in silver is a relief of his coat of arms. The reliquary was crafted by Wiesław Domański, a member of Saint Brother Albert Council 14332 in Lublin. An identical reliquary is kept at the John Paul II Shrine in Krakόw.

“We pray that those who come to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross this weekend will be inspired to carry out great works of mercy through evangelization as the Holy Father exemplified during his years as Pope and priest,” Cardinal Seán O’Malley said in a statement cited by the Boston Globe.

The paper notes that the tour begins in Boston because in 1979, it was the first U.S. city where Pope John Paul II said mass.

A number of relics containing the late pontiff's blood are on display at shrines around the world. One housed at the Church of San Pietro della Ienca in Italy was stolen in January.

Many Catholics venerate the relics of saints as well as those related to Jesus Christ. These relics come in three classes: A first-class relic is from the body of a saint, a second-class relic is something used by a saint while a third-class relic is one that has been touched by a first-class relic, explained Father William Saunders, dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom, on the website of the Catholic Education Resource Center.

"These relics summon us to appreciate more profoundly not only the heroic men and women, boys and girls who have served the Master so selflessly and generously, but especially the love and mercy of the Almighty who called these His followers to the bliss of unending life in His eternal kingdom," he wrote.

After visiting Boston, the blood relic will be taken to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on July 12-13, the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia July 19-20 and Baltimore at a date and location to be determined.

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  • Getty Images
    This file photo taken in the 1930s shows Karol Wojtyla posing with a candle in his hand after receiving First Communion at his home in Cracow. (STF/AFP/Getty Images)
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    Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) during his school trip to Wieliczka near Krakow. (Photo by Laski Diffusion/Getty Images)
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    Pope John Paul II (as young Karol Wojtyla, sitting second from left) as an acolyte and the priest Kazimierz Figlewicz are seen in this photo taken circa 1930 in Wadowice, Poland. (Photo by Laski Diffusion/Getty Images)
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    Pope John Paul II (young Karol Wojtyla, age of 11 or 12 in the middle) is seen with nurses of a hospital in Bielsko-Biala where his brother Edmund used to work in 1931. (Photo by Laski Diffusion/Getty Images)
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    Pope John Paul II (young Karol Wojtyla, in the middle) as Polish lancer in secondary school's play Lancers of Prince Joseph of L. Mazur. On the left Halina Krolikiewiczowna (later Kwiatkowska), actress, writer and traveller. On the right Danuta Puklo. (Photo by Laski Diffusion/Getty Images)
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    Young Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) in the camp of military training in Hermanowice near Skoczow in the south Poland. Photo taken by a friend of Wojtyla - Teofil Bojesia. (Photo by Laski Diffusion/Getty Images)
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    Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) in quarry of French Solvay Company in Borek Falecki near Krakow. The photo taken by a husband of Wojtyla's friend an actress Halina Krolikiewicz-Kwiatkowska. (Photo by Laski Diffusion/Getty Images)
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    Portraits of Pope John Paul II, then Karol Wojtyla are seen. On the left - 1946 before his orders. (Photo by Laski Diffusion/Getty Images)
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    An unlocated file photo dated October 1978 of Karol Wojtyla better known as Pope John Paul II. (Photo credit should read STF/AFP/Getty Images)
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    In this file picture taken, February 3, 1986, Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II wave to well-wishers in Calcutta. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
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    Pope John Paul II is seen in this file picture taken 29 April 1989 in Antanarivo as he reaches out to young well-wishers prior a mass at Youth stadium in capital of Madagascar. (Jean-Claude Delmas-Mike Nelson/AFP/Getty Images)
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    Pope John Paul II and South African President Nelson Mandela talk 16 September 1995 at the Presidential guest house in Pretoria. (Gary Bernard/AFP/Getty Images)
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    Pope John Paul II places his letter to God between the ancient stones of the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site March 26, 2000 in Jerusalem's Old City. (Photo by Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images)
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    Pope John Paul II takes a break during his Alpine vacation in July 2000 in Val d'Aosta, Italy. (Photo by Arturo Mari-Vatican Pool/Getty Images)
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