Italian priests fear bad omens after the blood of Saint Januarius reportedly failed to liquefy during a ceremony.

Who was Saint Januarius?

Saint Januarius, or San Gennaro, was a Christian martyr and bishop of Naples who lived in the third century, and was beheaded by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, making him one of about 3,500 Christians who lost their lives in these early Christian persecutions. Venerated in both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, the saint is particularly honored as the patron saint of the city of Naples.

The saint’s blood is kept within the Naples Cathedral, in keeping with the religious practice of housing relics in churches.

The blood is said to liquefy during ceremonies, which are performed throughout the year, including in December, near the Christmas holiday, in addition to Saint Januarius’ feast days, which are held in September and April. The miracle is said to have taken place since at least 1389, which is when it had been first recorded, and accounts have been regularly taken since.

One of the last times this happened was in 1939

The blood failing to liquefy is often taken as a bad omen, or a sign that disaster will befall the upcoming months, if not year. Some of the more infamous previous years in which the blood reportedly failed to perform the miracle were in 1939, the year preceding the Second World War, and 1943, which was associated with Nazi occupation of the area.

More recent years when the miracle failed to occur include 1973, which has been associated with a cholera epidemic in the area, and 1980, which is associated with the Irpinia earthquake.

The recent failure of the blood miracle has lead to concern that 2017 will be marked as a year of disaster, with some even citing the political turmoil taking place within the United States, in addition to controversies ranging in faculty from Brexit to ISIS, as a possible precedent.

Monsignor Vincenzo De Gregorio, who serves as the abbot of the chapel, warned that it is wrong to focus exclusively on disasters and tragedies, saying in a released statement that priests are “men of faith” who should never give up their belief in the power of prayer.