Catholic doctrine has always held that, upon consecration at Mass, Christ becomes truly and substantially present in the bread and wine on the altar.
Over the centuries, however, there have been numerous reports of consecrated Hosts literally turning to physical flesh and blood.
One such miracle happened in 8th Century Lanciano, where a priest who was doubting the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist saw the bread and wine transform into human flesh and blood as he said the words of consecration.
Over 1,200 years later, that flesh has not decomposed and is still preserved at the Church of San Francesco in the Italian town. Odoardo Linoli, a professor of anatomy, conducted a scientific analysis in 1971 and concluded the flesh was human cardiac tissue of blood group AB. The blood was still fresh, yet contained no trace of preservatives.
The AB blood group, which is relatively uncommon, does indeed keep appearing in reported miracles.
In 1996, a woman approached a priest in a Buenos Aires parish to say she had found a desecrated Host in a candleholder at the back of the church. When the priest put the Host in a glass of water to dissolve, as is specified in canon law, it appeared to turn into a piece of bloody flesh.
Three years later, after the flesh had not decomposed, a certain Bishop Jorge Bergoglio sent a sample for testing in California. The results came back that the blood was group AB, and was indeed human.
Another sample was later to Dr Zugiba of Columbia University, a renowned cardiologist, who concluded the tissue was a fragment of heart muscle that had “been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely about the chest”.
A later analysis of the results from the Buenos Aires miracle and that of the Lanciano miracle over a millennium earlier, found the tissue samples had the same DNA.
Meanwhile, tests in the mid-1990s on a third miracle, the Corporal of Bolsena (13th century), also found that traces of blood were group AB, the same result as tests on blood specks on the Shroud of Turin among others.
Of course, this could all just be a massive coincidence, or Dan Brown-style Church conspiracy to plant fresh blood and tissue samples on miracles across the world just before they are tested, but the chances are remote.
As the Church celebrates the feast of Corpus Christi, Catholics should remember this key doctrine of the faith – scientifically verified, it seems.