For centuries, the relic of the Holy Foreskin was considered by believers to be the only piece of Jesus’ flesh to remain on earth after he ascended to heaven, and thus was among the most sacred relics in Christendom.
Then, on New Year’s Day 1983, in a tiny village in the Italian countryside, Father Don Dario announced to his expectant flock that their beloved relic had been stolen.
New York Times writer David Farley goes on a quest to unravel the story of this mysterious crime.
4 July 2006
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The set of circumcision tools used to mutilate circumcise Jesus and the box containing the Holy Foreskin.
DULUTH, Pennsylvania -- Italian special police say they've broken the back of a gang of anarchist alchemists, Unione dei L'Alchimia Anarchici della Toscana (Tuscan Union of Anarchist Alchemists), whose goal is to create a potion which grants eternal life and to bring down the Catholic Church. A key ingredient of this alleged formula is,
“the Holy Prepuce, or Holy Foreskin (Latin præputium), is one of several relics purported to be associated with Jesus.”
~ Wikipedia on the Holy Foreskin
The Holy Prepuce, along with stolen mercury, lead, and 72 dead echidnas, were recovered in a raid on the Tuscan Union's back-alley "laboratory" in Genoa. Calcata once housed the Prepuce in a reliquary, which was paraded through the streets of this Italian village as recently as 1983 on the Feast of the Circumcision...
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“which was formerly marked by the Catholic Church around the world on January 1 each year. The practice ended, however, when thieves stole the jewel-encrusted case, contents and all. Following this theft, it is unclear whether any of the purported Holy Prepuces still exist. In a 1997 television documentary for Channel 4, British journalist Miles Kington travelled to Italy in search of the Holy Foreskin, but was unable to find any remaining example.”
Given the glut of Holy Foreskins, churches made efforts to have their foreskin authenticated by Church leaders as the sole genuine article. In the early 12th century, the monks of San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome asked Pope Innocent III to rule on the authenticity of their foreskin, but he declined to do so. Later, the monks of Charroux claimed their foreskin to be the only real one, pointing out that it apparently yielded drops of blood. This convinced Pope Clement VII (1523-1534) who declared theirs to be the authentic thing.
Some medieval theologians argued that all the Holy Foreskins necessarily had to be frauds since the actual Holy Foreskin had, they asserted, ascended into Heaven with Christ. The 17th century theologian Leo Allatius speculated in his essay De Praeputio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Diatriba that the holy foreskin had ascended into heaven at the same time as Jesus, and had become the rings of Saturn.
The Catholic Church eventually sought to extract itself from the Holy Foreskin controversy, deciding that it was rather unseemly for so much attention to be paid to Christ's private parts. It adopted the view that all the rival foreskins were frauds, and in 1900 made it a crime punishable by excommunication to write or speak about the Holy Foreskin.
Outside scholarly circles Allatius is perhaps best known today for his De Praeputio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Diatriba (A Discussion of the Foreskin of Our Lord Jesus Christ), a minor essay mentioned in Fabricius's Bibliotheca Graeca (xiv. 17) as an unpublished work. According to an unconfirmed nineteenth-century source, its thesis - which to many modern readers appears unintentionally humorous - is that the rings observed around the planet Saturn are the prepuce of Jesus.
In 1900, the Roman Catholic Church resolved the dilemma by ruling that anyone thenceforward writing or speaking of the Holy Prepuce would be excommunicated. In 1954, after much debate, the punishment was changed to the harsher degree of excommunication, vitandi (shunned); and the Second Vatican Council later removed the Day of the Holy Circumcision from the Latin church calendar, although Eastern Catholics and Traditional Roman Catholics still celebrate the Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord on January 1
As the Jewish tradition was to bury it - what makes you think it was kept?
Communion: a Christian sacrament in which consecrated bread and wine are consumed as memorials of Christ's death or as symbols for the realization of a spiritual union between Christ and communicant or as the body and blood of Christ.
Perhaps the foreskins missing because Father Don Dario or someone else decided to make the ultimate communion to Christ and partake of his body, literally.
As stomach turning as the notion is I'm being serious.
The Catholic Encyclopaedia itself recognises that many relics are "doubtful", but fails to admit that probably all of them are fakes: "Many of the more ancient relics duly exhibited for veneration in the great sanctuaries of Christendom or even at Rome itself must now be pronounced to be either certainly spurious or open to grave suspicion [...]. Difficulties might be urged against the supposed 'column of the flagellation' venerated at Rome in the Church of Santa Prassede and against many other famous relics." [The Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol. 12, p. 737] So much for the infallibility of Papal pronouncements!
How, then, is this discrepancy explained? The Catholic Encyclopaedia continues: "[...] no dishonour is done to God by the continuance of an error which has been handed down in perfect good faith for many centuries. [...] Hence there is justification for the practice of the Holy See in allowing the cult of certain doubtful ancient relics to continue." In other words, it is acceptable to believe a lie.