Pope Francis Credited With Performing 'Miracle' As St. Gennaro's Blood Liquifies

03/22/2015 11:49 pm ET | Updated Mar 23, 2015

Pope Francis is being credited with a miracle -- or at least a "half miracle" -- after St. Gennaro's blood liquified in his presence in Naples on Saturday.

The saint's blood is usually dry inside of its sealed glass ampoule. However, after the pope kissed the relic, it began to turn to liquid.

It is the sign that St. Gennaro loves Pope Francis: half of the blood turned to liquid," Cardinal Crescenzo Sepe, archbishop of Naples, told the cheering crowd, according to Vatican Insider.

“If only half of it liquefied that means we still have work to do; we have to do better," the pontiff replied. "We have only half of the saint’s love.”

The website reports that the blood continued to liquefy until the entire contents of the ampoule had turned to liquid, causing some in the crowd to weep.

St. Gennaro, also known as St. Januarius, was the bishop of Naples until he was martyred in 305 during persecution under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, Aleteia reports. In those days, it was common for Christians to collect the blood of their martyrs and keep it in the catacombs with the corpse of the deceased. The presence of the blood is an indication that the person had died a martyr, the website said.

The faithful believe St. Gennaro's blood liquifies three times a year if they pray enough: on the saint's feast day of Sept. 19, on the Saturday before the first Sunday of May and on December 16, the National Catholic Register reported.

The liquefaction of the blood has been documented for at least six centuries, AFP reported, happening up to 18 times a year in some cases.

Saturday marked the first time the blood has liquified in the papal presence since 1848, when it did so in front of Pope Pius IX, according to the Catholic Herald. The blood didn't liquify in front of Pope John Paul II when he visited in 1979, nor did it do so when Benedict XVI visited in 2007, according to the website.

Skeptics believe there is another explanation for the phenomenon. One possibility is that the blood liquifies when there are certain changes in conditions, such as when the relic is moved from storage to display.

While in Naples, Pope Francis also railed against organized crime and shared a meal with prison inmates, including some who have AIDS and some who are transgender.

Related on HuffPost:

Pope Francis

CONVERSATIONS