Prophecies Of Doom Circulate In Italy After Failed Miracle Of Saint's Blood

Pope Francis blesses the faithful with the vial containing the blood of San Gennaro at a meeting with members of the clergy in the Duomo during his pastoral visit in Naples in March, 2015. The archbishop of Naples claimed then that the dried blood of the city's patron saint began to turn liquid in an ampoule on Saturday while Pope Francis was in the cathedral where the relic is stored.Reuters

Fears of more earthquakes in Italy, cholera and other prophecies of doom circulated on social media after the blood of San Gennaro failed to liquefy.

Gennaro, whose name is often rendered as St Januarius, lived in the third century and is the patron saint of Naples. He is believed to have been a victim of the Roman emperor Diocletian's Christian persecution. 

At his death, it is said, some of his blood was collected by an onlooker and is to this day stored in Naples cathedral in a glass ampoule. The saint is celebrated three times a year at prayers, services and other events which surround the hoped-for "miracle of liquefaction".

When Pope Francis visited the cathedral in March last year, clergy said they observed the dry blood begin to turn liquid. The blood was said to have "half liquefied". The three official liquefaction dates are in May, September and December but it does also liquefy for some Popes, although not all, when they visit the cathedral.

This month on the third annual date for the miracle, there were no signs of liquefaction. December 16 is the day Napolitans remember the eruption of Vesuvius in 1631 and the intervention of San Gennaro to stop the lava before it entered the city. 

The faithful waited for a few days as the miracle often occurs in the days after the celebrations, but there have been no signs that it will occur this December.

According to the Naples edition of Repubblica, the faithful are often left disappointed by the last miracle of the year. "Nobody in the Curia makes a big deal," the paper said.

Something did at first seemed to change in the substance of the blood, and the clergy seemed confident, but in the end there was no change.  

Thousands of Catholics had flocked to the cathedral to witness the phenomenon.

But La Stampa reported that clergy became resigned to nothing happened and closed the casket. Abbot Vincenzo De Gregorio said: "We must not think about disasters and calamities. We are men of faith, and we must continue to pray."

He said the blood seemed to start to liquify but then coagulated again, "a strange thing". He could not report its true "dissolution". 

Archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe holds a flask believed to contain drops of liquefied blood of San Gennaro in Naples Cathedral, Italy.Reuters

The failure of the miracle is linked in the minds of faithful Italians to adversity.

It failed in September 1939 and 1940, the dates of the beginning of World War II and Italy's entry into the war, in September 1943 during the Nazi occupation, in 1973 when Naples was hit by a cholera epidemic and in 1980, the year of a terrible earthquake in Irpinia, south Italy. 

A worshipper holds a picture of San Gennaro during a mass in the Naples Cathedral, south Italy.Reuters

Catholics must now wait until next May to witness the miracle again.

De Gregorio emphasised that the real treasures were the ones of faith and martyrdom: "The blood has been preserved as a sign of martyrdom and thus of a faith that goes beyond human logic. This is the Treasure of San Gennaro, the real treasure."

In spite of his reassuring words, prophecies of doom were quick to circulate on social media: