Brain of One of Italy's Most Revered Saints Found in a Teapot

A plaster replica of Saint John Bosco on display in Liverpool
A plaster replica of Saint John Bosco on display in Liverpool
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

It's not every day you find a saint's brain in the kitchen cupboard.

John Bosco, one of Italy's most popular saints, was a 19th century Roman Catholic priest, writer, and educator known for his work helping impoverished youth. He founded the Salesian religious order in 1859, and was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934. These days, more than 600,000 pilgrims a year visit his basilica in Castelnuovo, near Turin.

But on June 3, some of those pilgrims were disappointed to find a small room near the altar of the basilica that normally holds some of his relics marked "Closed. Under Construction." Soon the church revealed there was no construction—a thief dressed as a pilgrim had made off with a reliquary containing fragments of the saint's brain the evening before.

Police set up roadblocks around northern Italy and searched cars, while faithful Catholics around the world prayed for the relic's safe return. Italian newspapers speculated that the relic had been stolen for ransom, or (more ominously) a "satanic rite."

Fortunately, it didn't take long for police to find some suspicious fingerprints on the glass protecting the reliquary, as well as some shoeprints nearby. After submitting the prints to a forensic lab in Parma, digital fingerprint technology found a match, as The Telegraph reports: a 42-year-old man with a record living in Pinerolo, near Turin. The authorities have identified him only as "C.G."

After obtaining a search warrant, police found the reliquary intact in the man's kitchen cupboard, nestled inside a copper teapot. C.G. apparently believed the reliquary was made of solid gold (it's not), and would fetch a hefty sum. The recovery of the relic was announced on June 16, and it is now safely back in the basilica.

Bosco's brain is far from the only pilfered relic, which Catholics believe can be used for healing, protection, and sometimes even miracles. During the Middle Ages, when dead saints were celebrities, there was a thriving trade in relics stolen (or "translated") from one church for another. More recently, thieves have been stealing relics for ransom, to sell to collectors, or for more obscure reasons—such as the theft of the 800-year-old preserved heart of St. Laurence O'Toole from Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

Enrico Stasi, the Salesian provincial for the Piedmont region, told The Telegraph the Carabinieri (Italian military police) had done an "excellent job" recovering the relic. "Obviously we are very, very happy," he said.

[h/t BizzarroBazar]

Canadian Man Named Lorne Grabher Stripped of His Right to Have a ‘GRABHER’ License Plate Is Appealing the Court’s Decision

Lorne Grabher shows off his forbidden license plate.
Lorne Grabher shows off his forbidden license plate.
CBC News, YouTube

For about 25 years, Nova Scotia, Canada, was home to a vanity license plate emblazoned with “GRABHER.”

Lorne Grabher had given it to his father as a 65th birthday gift in 1991, and it eventually passed to Lorne himself. Anyone who knew the Grabhers no doubt recognized the last name, but the same couldn’t be said for one passerby, alarmed at what seemed like a blanket imperative for abduction and assault. In November 2016, the anonymous individual filed a complaint with the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, who informed Grabher that his plate would be revoked the following month.

Grabher, proud of his Austrian-German heritage and outraged at what he considered to be a violation of his rights, sued the Registrar. This past January, CBC News reported that the Nova Scotia Supreme Court sided with the Registrar, ruling that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not extend to this particular situation.

“The seven letters (‘GRABHER’) on a government-owned license plate can be interpreted as promoting sexualized violence (without full contextual information),” the court stated in its decision. “Preventing harm that could flow from such a message on a government plate must be seen as pressing and substantial.”

Though disappointed with the outcome, Grabher was determined to continue the fight, even if that meant taking the case all the way to Canada’s Supreme Court.

“I’m not giving up,” he told CBC News in January. “I’m in it for the long haul.”

True to his word, Grabher is now filing an appeal through his lawyers at Calgary’s Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms on the grounds that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does, in fact, cover personalized license plates, and there is no evidence to suggest that Grabher’s plate actually promotes sexualized violence [PDF].

While you wait for the next chapter of this epic battle of wills to unfold, check out 11 other controversial license plates here.

[h/t CBC News]

Oregon Police Are Cautioning People Not to Call 911 When Their Toilet Paper Runs Out

Running out of Charmin does not rise to the level of an emergency.
Running out of Charmin does not rise to the level of an emergency.
belchonock/iStock via Getty Images

Concerns that Americans may be short on toiletries amid the coronavirus situation have led to some people hoarding essentials like toilet paper, causing others to see their own stock run low. While supply chains have reassured consumers that restocking toilet tissue is no issue, some residents of Newport, Oregon apparently consider their shortage of two-ply to be an emergency matter.

CNN reports that the Newport Police Department issued an exasperated warning on its Facebook page for residents to stop calling 911 to report they’re low on toilet paper.

“It’s hard to believe we even have to post this,” the message reads. “Do not call 9-1-1 just because you ran out of toilet paper. You will survive without our assistance.”

The post goes on to sardonically suggest some historical alternatives for manufactured toilet paper, including “old rope and anchor lines soaked in salt water” and “sea shells.” In case readers don’t get the message, the post also notes—somewhat ominously—that Newport is a “coastal town.”

Obviously, running low on bath tissue can be an inconvenient matter, but the Newport PD wanted to remind people that an unwiped bottom does not rise to the level of an emergency requiring first responder intervention.

[h/t CNN]

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