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A flask of saint's blood appeared to liquefy Saturday in the hands of Naples' cardinal, sparking immediate, impassioned debate among Italians over whether it was a sign of divine favor for the cardinal.

The blood of St. Gennaro, patron saint of Naples, has been seen liquefying hundreds of times, including regularly on the Sept. 19 anniversary of his martyrdom in 305. This year, the event had added political importance given the cardinal's implication in a loan-sharking case.

After 50 minutes of intense prayer, Cardinal Michele Giordano displayed the vial of St. Gennaro's blood, drawing applause from 3,000 jubilant worshipers in Naples' cathedral.

"I thank you all for your extraordinary participation in this act of faith," he said. News outlets proclaimed it a miracle.

Cardinal Giordano's brother was arrested in August on suspicion of involvement in a loan-sharking ring. Dozens of police later raided the cardinal's office, searching for any evidence that his money or church funds were used. The cardinal denies wrongdoing.

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