Vial of late pope's blood to be kept in Polish church after his beatification

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A vial containing blood drawn from Pope John Paul II shortly before he died will be installed as a relic in a Polish church after his beatification later this year. The vial will be encased in crystal and built into the altar of a church in the southern city of Krakow that is opening in May, said Piotr Sionko, the spokesman for the John Paul II Centre.

The exact date of the opening is not yet known, but it should be shortly after John Paul's beatification at the Vatican on 1 May. Mr Sionko said the idea came from Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Archbishop of Krakow and the longtime friend and secretary of the late Polish-born pontiff. The blood was drawn for medical tests at Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic shortly before John Paul's death on 2 April 2005, and is now in Cardinal Dziwisz's possession.

The church in the Lagiewniki district is part of a centre that will be devoted to cultivating the memory and teaching of the late pope, who was born Karol Wojtyla in Wadowice, southern Poland, and spent decades in Krakow.

Many Catholics in the world are rejoicing over Pope Benedict XVI's announcement last week that he will beatify John Paul. Beatification is the last major step before possible sainthood. The idea of displaying the pope's relics has met with some reservations, even inside the Catholic Church.