Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Blood of St. Januarius Won't Be Kissed This Year Because of Swine Flu

St. Januarius the Hieromartyr (Feast Day - April 21); 
icon is from St. Nicholas Monastery, Ft. Myers, Florida, with an embedded relic of the Saint.

I should note that though St. Januarius (Gannaro) is an early Christian martyr celebrated on April 21st, it is important to keep in mind that this "miracle" is post-schism (first reported in 1389) and more likely to have a natural explanation or even be a Papal hoax of the time as it has been replicated and explained (and we as Orthodox know that medieval Papal authorities were not above formulating hoaxes!). In nearby Ravello the same thing happens supposedly with the blood of St. Panteleimon. In fact, because St. Panteleimon issued blood mixed with milk after his beheading, the vial in Ravello has blood mixed with milk (which makes this whole phenomenon seem more like a hoax). Interestingly after Vatican II the Catholic Church almost totally removed St. Januarius from the list of saints (because of little historical evidence supporting his story), but popular reactions against this compelled them to keep him there. If it is a hoax I don't believe it is perpetual, but maybe something was added to the vial initially to make it look like a miracle. Keep in mind that in the neighborhood of Naples they also claimed to have the blood of St. John the Baptist, St. Stephen the Protomartyr, St. Patricia, Nicholas of Talentino, Aloysius Gonzaga, and others. There were also reports of the liquefication of the breast milk of the Virgin Mary as well as the fat of Thomas Aquinas. In Naples they also possess the relics of St. Januarius. 

H1N1 Flu Stops Italians From Kissing Saint's Blood

September 8, 2009

Fear of H1N1 flu will stop devout Neapolitans from performing the time-honoured ritual of kissing the blood of their patron Saint Gennaro when the city's annual festival begins later this month.

The decision to forbid kissing of the glass phial containing the Saint's blood was taken reluctantly by ecclesiastical and city authorities Monday, and has brought protests from local politicians.

The phial will be put on display in the city's cathedral for a week from September 19 and the faithful will be allowed to touch it only with their foreheads.

Marco Di Lello, national co-ordinator of the Socialist Party, said the ban would "fuel the psychosis (over flu) which risks becoming unstoppable," and appealed to the archbishop of Naples to try to have the ban revoked.

Last week, a 51-year-old man became Italy's first fatal victim of the H1N1 flu virus, popularly known as swine flu, when he died in a Naples hospital.

In one of Italy's best-known festivals, Saint Gennaro's dried blood is said to liquefy twice a year, 17 centuries after his death. Some Neapolitans fear disaster may strike the city if the "miracle" does not occur.

Legend has it that when Gennaro was beheaded by pagan Romans in 305 A.D., a Neapolitan woman soaked up his blood with a sponge and preserved it in a glass phial.

The substance usually turns to liquid on September 19, the saint's feast day, and on the first Saturday in May. The "miracle" was first recorded in 1389, more than 1,000 years after Gennaro's martyrdom.

More scientifically minded sceptics say the phenomenon is due to chemicals present in the phial whose viscosity changes when it is stirred or moved.

Italy has not been among the nations hardest hit by the H1N1 flu virus, which has spread to at least 177 countries and caused at least 2,800 deaths, the World Health Organisation says.

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