"Devotees of John Paul can apply via e-mail, fax or post for fragments of a white cassock to augment their prayers.
But the scheme has caused disquiet in the Vatican, which is anxious to discourage the veneration of relics, seen as a medieval practice with no place in the modern church.“Wars were fought over the hunt for relics in the Middle Ages,” said Bishop Velasio De Paolis, secretary of the Apostolic Signature, the Vatican’s top judicial body.Condemnation of the sale of relics – or simony – was one of the causes of the Reformation in the 16th century, together with usury and the sale of indulgences. “No-one can say whether venerating relics aids prayer, it depends on the faith of the believer”, Bishop De Paolis told La Stampa.The Vicariate solicits donations from those who apply for its fragments, risking further criticism from the Vatican which forbids the sale of relics.The Vicariate claims the donations are needed to cover costs, with any surplus going towards the costs of John Paul’s “cause for sainthood”.
The relics on offer are known as ex indumentis, meaning cloth that the late Pope touched.
The Vicariate said it had been overwhelmed by requests for the relics, and donations to the beatification website had increased to 1,200 a day from 300 a day when it was launched four months after John Paul’s death.
Thousands continue to file every day past the late Pope’s tomb in the crypt of St Peter’s Basilica.
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