efe-epaAsuncion

Paraguay's Catholic faithful on Saturday came to the Asuncion Cathedral to view and venerate a relic containing the blood of Pope John Paul II, which went on display for the second time in history in the South American nation and will be taken to a number of churches around the country this week.

About 100 Catholics were on hand to await the arrival of the vial of blood of the Polish pope, who died in 2005 and was canonized in 2014.

Carrying rosaries and crucifixes, the faithful awaited the arrival of the nuns who have custody of the relic, a small glass container with blood drawn from the pontiff for a medical test before he died.

The vial, which is displayed within a metal book on the altar of the Metropolitan Cathedral underneath a photo of John Paul II, was venerated by people of all ages, who waited in line for their turn to approach the relic.

Some kissed it, others prayed before it, some brushed it with holy cards bearing the image of the late pope.

The nuns told the faithful before the veneration session commenced that anything touching the vial of blood would automatically be considered a third-degree relic, and - thus - the faithful touched the relic with handkerchiefs, bracelets and rosaries to bless them.

The relic had been brought to Paraguay once before, in 2015, to be venerated in the city of Encarnacion, in the southern province of Itapua.

The veneration session will be suspended for several hours on Saturday afternoon when Asuncion Archbishop Edmundo Valenzuela is scheduled to preside over the saying of a rosary and celebrating a special Mass.

In the coming days, the relic will be taken to the cathedral in the city of San Lorenzo and to the Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rosary in the town of Luque, both in the Asuncion metro area.

St. John Paul II visited Paraguay in 1988, the first pontiff to travel to the South American country, and Pope Francis also came to the country in 2015.