A massive earthquake has struck Italy, setting off an avalanche that has buried a ski hotel and left many dead.
More on that story, but first, we must note that on December 20, 2016, a story appeared about the blood of an Italian saint predicting disaster.
The blood of St. Januarius, Patron of Naples and former bishop and martyr of the city, failed to liquefy, an occurrence some believe to portend misfortune. “We must not think of disasters and calamities. We are men of faith and we must pray,” said the Abbot of the Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro.
NAPLES, Italy – Prayer was the response to a rare failure of a saint’s blood to liquefy in Naples, an occurrence some believe to portend misfortune.
“We must not think of disasters and calamities. We are men of faith and we must pray,” said Monsignor Vincenzo De Gregorio, the Abbot of the Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro, ANSA reports.
The blood belongs to St. Januarius, Patron of Naples and former bishop and martyr of the city.
Known in Italian as San Gennaro, his bones and a reliquary of his blood are preserved in Naples’ cathedral. He is believed to have been martyred during the infamous persecution of Christians during the rule of the Roman emperor Diocletian, who retired in 305.
The reputed miracle is locally known and accepted, though has not been the subject of official Church recognition.
The liquefaction is believed to happen at least three times a year: the Saturday before the first Sunday of May, September 19, which is the saint’s feast day, and December 16, the anniversary of the 1631 eruption of the Mount Vesuvius volcano.
During the miracle, the dried, red-colored mass confined to one side of the reliquary becomes blood that covers the entire glass. In local lore, the failure of the blood to liquefy signals war, famine, disease or other disaster.
The blood did indeed liquefy on September 19, 2016.
Historically, the vial has sometimes changed upon the visit of a pope.
On March 21, 2015, Pope Francis met with priests, religious and seminarians at the cathedral and gave a blessing with the relic.
Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe of Naples then received the vial back from the pope and noted that the blood was still solid on one side of the vial.
The cardinal remarked: “It seems that St. Januarius loves the Pope, because the blood is already half liquefied.”
Pope Francis quipped in response: “you can see that the saint only loves us a little. We have to convert more.”
The last time blood liquefied in the presence of a pope was in 1848 when Pius IX visited. The phenomenon didn’t happen when St. John Paul II visited the city in October 1979, or when Benedict XVI visited in October 2007.
The biggest immediate fallout from the Italian quake has been to focus worldwide attention on the ski hotel pictured at the top of this post.
– An avalanche hit a hotel in Abruzzo in the early hours of Thursday morning
– Several deaths are feared, according to Italian media reports citing rescue services
Fire service: No sign of survivors, 13:14: Confirming what La Repubblica daily reported a few minutes ago, Italy’s fire service has said its rescue dog units are at the scene, but that there has been no sign of life from any of the missing people. Firefighters arrived by helicopter earlier this morning, but the roads have only just been cleared of snow allowing further units to join them.
Rescue dog units and firefighters have also arrived by road, at the moment no signs from the missing people.
Guests were ready to leave when avalanche hit, 13:05: The hotel guests were reportedly waiting in the entrance hall to leave, but had been unable to due to a delay in the snowplough which was supposed to clear the roads.
“They had packed their bags, all the guests wanted to go,” Quintino Marcello, who ran the hotel’s restaurant, told La Repubblica. “They had been told that the snowplough would arrive at 3pm, but it was then pushed back to 7pm.”
Rescue efforts are underway, with spades, dogs and video equipment all being used, and the underground sauna is being searched.
The violence of the avalanche – which moved the entire hotel by ten metres – is making things difficult. Journalists on the scene say that trees, mattresses and other items from the hotel are all mixed in with the snow.
25 still unaccounted for, 12:12: 25 people, including several children, remain unaccounted for as rescue work continues.