A 50-year-old corpse wearing a silicone mask was paraded through the streets of Rome on Saturday, cheered on by thousands of onlookers who took pictures of the dead body as it made its way to the Vatican.
The mortal remains of Catholic monk Saint Pio da Pietralcina, which were exhumed, embalmed and given facial reconstruction in 2008, were taken to St Peter’s Basilica to be blessed by Pope Francis, part of a celebration for the Catholic jubilee.
Speaking over the corpse on Saturday, Francis called Pio a "servant of mercy."
"He did so full-time, practicing, at times in exhaustion, the apostolate of listening,” the pontiff reflected.
Pio's bearded form, which is usually interred in San Giovanni Rotondo in the south of the country, has become a tourist attraction for the Foggia region, drawing more than a million visitors annually.
The corpse is held in such high regard due to unsubstantiated claims that before death the monk was able to cure the sick. He also allegedly received visions and suffered stigmata -- bleeding from the hands mimicking the wounds of Christ. Pio could also tell the future and be in two places at once, though this remains unverified.
The monk died in 1968 at the age of 81. He was beatified in 1999, and canonised in 2002 by Pope John Paul II. Pio's body is to go on display in the Vatican in a climate controlled crystal coffin until Feb. 11. A second dead body, that of Croatian Leopold Mandic, who died in 1942, will also be available for viewing at the Basilica.