Ansa is reporting that there are false relics of Pope John Paul II being sold in shops near the Vatican.

Small pieces of cloth being sold near the Vatican as ‘relics’ of the ever popular John Paul II are bogus, Catholic Church authorities warned on Thursday .

Scraps of material which have allegedly been rubbed against the tomb of the late pontiff are being sold to tourists in at least one souvenir shop .

The scraps of material, encased in a round piece of transparent plastic, are available in three sizes and start at 3 euros each .

The same shop is also selling statuettes of the Polish pontiff on which he is described as Saint John Paul II, even though the process expected to lead to his canonisation is still long from over .

The shopkeeper was asked by a journalist on Thursday whether the articles had been approved for sale by the Vatican. He declined to answer .

Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the official in charge of John Paul’s canonisation process, said that the cloth ‘relics’ now on sale had definitely not received a green light from either his office or the Rome diocese .”

They have no official recognition and anyway what’s the point of rubbing cloth on his tomb when you can have a piece of one of his robes?” he said .Msgr Oder pointed out that pilgrims and devotees can obtain official John Paul relics free of charge through his office at the diocesan headquarters .

The authorised items comprise a small picture of the Polish pope together with a fragment cut out of one of the tunics he wore as pope .

Ever since John Paul died in April 2005, pilgrims have been coming to Rome to visit his tomb at St Peter’s Basilica. Souvenir shops do a roaring trade in gadgets, calendars, posters showing the popular pontiff’s face.

The widespread fascination with the charismatic figure has been fed by numerous TV dramas and films about his life. Meanwhile, procedures are under way to have the late pope declared a saint and there are frequent reports of alleged miracles attributed to him .

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