The blood of Saint Januarius liquefied on Monday at a Mass in Naples, where the archbishop sharply condemned the city’s “cancerous mafia culture.”

Archbishop Domenico Battaglia of Naples held up an ampoule containing the relic of the third-century martyr-saint’s blood in the Naples Cathedral on Sept. 19, revealing the liquefaction to shouts and cheers.

“Today the sign of Bishop Januarius’ blood shed for the sake of Christ and his brethren tells us that goodness, beauty, and righteousness are and always will be victorious,” the archbishop said.

“Here is the meaning of this blood which, united with the blood shed by Christ and that of all martyrs of every place and time, is a living testimony that love always wins.”

More than 2,000 people gathered in Naples’ Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary for the feast of St. Januarius, the city’s patron saint, known as San Gennaro in Italian. The bishop is believed to have been martyred during the Christian persecution of Emperor Diocletian.

Naples Cathedral on Sept. 19, 2022. Screenshot / Chiesa di Napoli YouTube Channel
Naples Cathedral on Sept. 19, 2022. Screenshot / Chiesa di Napoli YouTube Channel

In Neapolitan lore, the failure of the blood to liquefy signals war, famine, disease, or other disasters. The reputed miracle usually occurs up to three times a year: Sept. 19, the saint’s feast day; the first Saturday of May; and Dec. 16, the anniversary of the 1631 eruption of the nearby Mount Vesuvius.

In his homily, the archbishop of Naples cautioned against reducing the veneration of the city’s saint to mere superstition.

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“It matters little, my brothers and sisters, whether the blood liquefies or not; let us never reduce this celebration to an oracle to be consulted,” Battaglia said.

“Believe me, what really matters to the Lord, what our bishop and martyr Januarius strongly asks of us, is the daily commitment to stake on love,” he added.

Archbishop Domenico Battaglia with the liquefied blood of St. Januarius on Sept. 19, 2022. Screenshot / Youtube channel, Chiesa di Napoli
Archbishop Domenico Battaglia with the liquefied blood of St. Januarius on Sept. 19, 2022. Screenshot / Youtube channel, Chiesa di Napoli

Battaglia also underlined the need to confront the southern Italian city’s “mafia culture.” He said that the “cancerous evil of the Camorra and mafia culture, educational poverty, and unemployment” are like a “plague” for the young people in Naples, often forcing them to emigrate.

The archbishop appealed to Catholics to contribute to the “educational pact” he launched in Naples last year with the aim of reaching young people with constructive opportunities before they are drawn into organized crime. 

“People of Naples, what makes you magnificent is your ability to love, what can make you so even more is to draw from the source of love which is Christ himself: do not be afraid to follow him and magnify the Lord for what he will work in you, in your little ones, among your poor, for those who sit on the margins of society,” Battaglia said.