John Paul II blood relic venerated at Manila Cathedral

Manila Cathedral in the Philippines received St. Pope John Paul II's blood relic, which was venerated in public from April 7 to April 8 in the country's capital. The late pope's former secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was also the archbishop of Krakow, Poland gave the vial as a gift since the cathedral is celebrating its 60th year of reconstruction following the Second World War.

(Reuters/Max Rossi)Pope John Paul II spreads ash on Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos during a solemn celebration is Saint Peter's Basilica for Ash Wednesday at the Vatican February 25, 2004.

The rector of Manila Cathedral, Father Reggie Malecdem, told the press that the gesture was unexpected. A Filipino nun based in Poland brought the gift to the Philippines, which was encased in a special reliquary.

When the Vatican beatified and canonized John Paul II in 2014, a similar reliquary was also placed on display. Seven vials were distributed to different churches across the world.

The blood remained liquefied as it was mixed with an anti-coagulant substance during its extraction. Doctors took the pope's blood in preparation for an emergency transfusion during the last few days of his life, when he suffered from complications of Parkinson's disease.

In 1981, Pope John Paul II celebrated mass at the Manila Cathedral during his visit to the Philippines for the beatification of Filipino saint Lorenzo Ruiz. The pope returned to the country in 1995 for the World Youth Day.

The saint is beloved among Filipinos. Some 2,500 thousand devotees lined up to pay their respects to John Paul II.

"Pope John Paul II came to us and opened his heart to us. The Philippines is welcome in his heart," Manila Cathedral Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said in his homily. "Now we welcome him again, the relic of his blood ... With St. John Paul II, let us be witnesses of Jesus Christ to the ends of the Earth," he added.

Pope John Paul II served as leader of the Catholic Church from 1978 to 2005. He died at his home in the Vatican just over a month shy of his 85th birthday. The College of Cardinals buried his body at St. Peter's Basilica last April 2005.