The fragment, part of a relic stored in the Italian capital’s Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, was described by the Custody of the Holy Land, run by Franciscan friars, as a “gift” from Pope Francis.
“It has contributed for centuries to marking the religiousness of the faithful in Rome and from elsewhere,” the custodians wrote, saying that large numbers of pilgrims from around the world went there to worship it.
It will then move to Bethlehem, traditionally known as Jesus’ birthplace, on Saturday, ahead of the start of the Advent season.
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According to the Custody of the Holy Land, the so-called Holy Crib relic was donated by St Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, to Pope Theodore I around the middle of the seventh century.