Thousands witness annual Italian miracle of St. Januarius

.- Clergy, faithful, and even civic leaders were on hand Monday morning at Naples’ Cathedral to witness the centuries old occurrence--still unexplainable by scientists--of the liquefaction of martyr St. Januarius’ blood.

Thousands watched as Cardinal Michele Giordano announced the occurrence of the miracle at 7:56 GMT and held up a phial of the usually solid--now liquefied blood of the city’s patron Saint.

Yesterday’s occurrence marked the 1,700 year anniversary of St. Januarius’ martyrdom. He was beheaded by the Roman emperor Diocletian in 305 for refusing to bow down to his persecutors.

The miracle is said to occur three times throughout the year--something which many locals see as a sign of God’s closeness with the city.

On five particular occasions, the blood has failed to liquefy and each was shortly followed with disaster.

In 1527, for example, tens of thousands died from the plague, and in 1980, 3,000 people were killed in an earthquake which devastated much of southern Italy.

Naples Mayor Rosa Russo Jervolino, who was on hand to witness the event, is quoted in ANSA news saying that the miracle was "a sign that San Gennaro (St. Januarius) is still protecting our city. It was also a strong sign of hope and, I'd say, encouragement for everyone to work for the common good."

Scientists who have confirmed that the phials do indeed contain human blood have been unable--for 1,700 years--to explain the thrice yearly phenomenon.

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