Merry Christmas, someone stole Jesus's foreskin

The Catholic church has plenty of weird relics stored in ornate boxes around the world. Tourists flock to these churches to get a glimpse of the vessels that allegedly contain the original Crown of Thorns, or some of Christ's dried blood that turns to liquid every now and then.

And then there's Jesus's foreskin—the last (allegedly) surviving piece of flesh from God-made-flesh, chopped from the tip of his penis on New Year's Day, according to the official Roman calendar.

The fact that Jesus's foreskin still allegedly exists in the world somewhere is pretty weird, but its existence alone is not the weirdest part. No, the weirdest part is that Jesus's foreskin has been missing for more than 30 years—and that in true Dan Brown style, it may have been stolen by covert agents of the Catholic church.

According to "records," Charlemagne received the foreskin from an angel, and gifted it to Pope Leo II on Jesus' 800th birthday. It moved around a bit before being stolen during the Sack of Rome, then eventually turned up in a small village north of Rome called Calcata, where it remained until 1983, when it was stolen under mysterious circumstances. Calcata had become a sort of pilgrimage destination thanks to that little slice of petrified baby foreskin.

The Catholic Church started to downplay the foreskin in the early 20th century, even threatening to excommunicate those who mentioned it. Meanwhile, Calcata went through some changes on its own. The whole town was condemned in the 1930s, deemed unsafe by the local government due to the crumbling volcanic cliffs nearby. By the '60s, however, it began to gain a new life as a Bohemian enclave for hippies and artists and Holy Prepuces. Around the same time, Pope John XXIII revised the Roman Calendar, conveniently writing out Jesus's circumcision. But the town continued throwing a New Year's circumcision party anyway — and that began to draw some attention.

At some point, the local priest, Dario Magnoni, took Jesus's foreskin from its place at the church and stored in a shoebox at his own home. Then, in 1983, he made a declaration. "This year, the holy relic will not be exposed to the devotion of the faithful," he said. It has vanished. Sacrilegious thieves have taken it from my home."

Or did they? According to Slate, a deathbed confession by a bishop from the area hinted towards a different conspiracy:

Could the "sacrilegious thieves" Magnoni mentioned in his 1983 announcement about the relic's disappearance actually have been Vatican emissaries? The thought of masked, black-clad Vatican agents on a mission to steal Jesus' foreskin does sound alluring. But for residents like Capellone, who swear the Vatican now has the relic, the thief could be Magnoni himself. Some locals claim they saw him go to Rome the day before he made the announcement, generating speculation that the Vatican asked for it and Magnoni not only failed to stand up to them, he delivered the relic himself.

My theory? It's obvious: the Catholic church recovered the relic so that they might create a clone army of Foreskin Jesuses (Jesusii?) to dominate the world. There are probably other theories out there, too, but I'm sticking with that.

Fore Shame [David Farley / Slate]

What the foreskin of Jesus can teach us all [Sean Braswell and Ned Colin / OZY]

Image via Global Reactions / Flickr