The blood last liquefied in a pope's presence in 1848

The blood of St Januarius liquefied in the presence of a pope for the first time since 1848 on Saturday.

The blood of the patron saint of Naples, which is normally solid, partially liquefied after Pope Francis kissed the relic during his day trip to the southern Italian city.

According to AFP, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe of Naples showed the vial to the congregation in the city’s cathedral, saying: “The blood has half liquefied, which shows that St Januarius loves our Pope and Naples.”

Pope Francis responded: “The bishop just announced that the blood half liquefied. We can see the saint only half loves us. We must all spread the word, so that he loves us more!”

The blood last liquefied for a pope in the presence of Pius IX. The phenomenon did not occur when St John Paul II visited Naples in 1979 and Benedict XVI visited the city in 2007.

St Januarius was a Bishop of Naples who is believed to have been martyred around the year 305 during the Diocletian persecution.

His blood is kept in a sealed glass ampoule and traditionally liquefies three times a year: on September 19, the saint’s feast day, December 16 and the Saturday before the first Sunday of May.