Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Father Piotr Nowacki SChr. shows a relic of Pope John Paul II received by the Polish Apostolate in Atlanta which will be housed at St. Marguerite d'Youville Catholic Church in Lawrenceville.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- A Polish church tucked off Lawrenceville Highway that seats about 500 at full capacity has been bestowed with what few other congregations in the world can claim -- a vial of Blessed Pope John Paul II's blood.
The relic, extracted from the church leader and historical giant after his 2005 death, will be unveiled today at St. Marguerite d'Youville Catholic Church in Lawrenceville to coincide with a renaming of Atlanta's Polish Catholic Apostolate.
Church leaders hope the relic -- encased in a gold frame, in a cylindrical vial encircled by the words "Blood of Blessed John Paul II" in Latin -- affords congregants and Catholics across metro Atlanta a sense of proximity to a pope known for his human touch.
"This is very special for us, for all Polish people in America," said Father Piotr Nowacki, church chaplain.
A similar vial that toured Mexico notwithstanding, the relic is the only vial scheduled for the foreseeable future in North America, said Meaghan Schroeder, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
The relic is considered "first class," a status reserved for offerings of the Pope's body and a step above items such as clothing, Nowacki said.
Obtaining the relic involved a fairly cut-and-dried process and took only a few weeks.
Nowacki received permission through the archbishop in Atlanta to make the request and directed a letter to the Cardinal of Poland. That a ceremony to honor a patron saint was already scheduled today worked in the church's favor and helped expedite the process, Nowacki believes.
The relic's unveiling is expected to bring crowds to the church not seen outside Christmas and Easter. The aposolate will assume the name Blessed John Paul II Polish Aposolate of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
In May, Pope Benedict XVI moved John Paul II one step closer to sainthood by beatifying him before a huge Vatican City crowd. Nowacki is hopeful his fellow Pole will be attributed with another miracle and achieve canonization, the last step before sainthood, soon.
Anna Standish, spokeswoman for the Polish Club of Atlanta, said the relic will have powerful symbolism for those who can't finance a trip to Rome.
"For a lot of people here, this is as close as they'll get," Standish said. "This is a very special connection. He was an extraordinary human being."