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NAPLES, Italy (Reuters) - The substance many Neopolitans believe is the dried blood of their patron saint liquefied right on cue on Thursday, in a twice-yearly "miracle." Thousands of faithful crammed into Naples cathedral to see the blood of the fourth century Saint Gennaro turn from powder to liquid, which they see as a good omen for the city and the world. The miracle has been recorded almost without fail for the past 600 years -- on September 19, the saint's feast day, and on the first Saturday in May. When the blood has remained dry, tragedies have followed.
Scientists have confirmed that the substance inside the closed vial is blood but cannot explain why it regularly turns to liquid.
Cardinal Michele Giordano told the congregation this year's miracle was particularly good, because the blood had liquefied in less than an hour.
"It's an extraordinary event, also because you can clearly see that the blood has changed color and there's more of it," Girodano said holding up the glass vial.
Disaster has struck at least five times after the blood failed to liquefy. In 1527 the plague killed 40,000 people and more recently in November 1980 some 3,000 people died in a massive earthquake that struck southern Italy.