H1N1 flu stops Italians kissing saint’s blood

September 8, 2009

san-gennaroFear of H1N1 flu will stop devout Neapolitan Catholics 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 on Monday, and has brought protests from local politicians. 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.

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

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(Photo: Pope Benedict XVI views what local Roman Catholics believe is the blood of Saint Gennaro during a visit to Naples, 21 Oct 2007/Ciro Fusco)


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