The holy relics of St. Savvas were stolen by the crusaders of the First Crusade (1096 – 1099) together with many other relics and brought to Venice, Italy where he was enshrined in a church dedicated to St. Antoninus. Nearly nine centuries later his relics were returned to Israel.
On 10 October 1965 the relics of St. Savvas were returned by Pope Paul VI to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The reception was made, at the direction of Patriarch Benediktos of Jerusalem, by Bishop Vasilios of Jerusalem, Fr. Theodosios the Abbot of Bethany, Fr. Seraphim the Abbot of St. Savvas Lavra, and the Hierodeacon (and future Metropolitan of Nazareth) Kyriakos.
Though it is commonly recorded that this gesture on behalf of the Pope was made merely as an ecumenical gesture, such as that of the skull of St. Andrew in Patras, with regards to the return of the relics of St. Savvas there is more to the story. In fact, it was St. Savvas himself who was urging Pope Paul VI to have his relics returned, appearing first to his predecessor Pope John XXIII in his dreams and causing a scene in his reliquary.
Fr. Seraphim, the Abbot of St. Savvas Lavra, explains everything as follows:
“The Pope did not give us the holy relic because he loved us, but because he [St. Savvas] would constantly appear to him [Pope John XXIII] and would bother him to have his relics returned to his monastery. When the Pope died he did not take the wishes of the Saint into account, so he appeared again to his successor [Pope Paul VI]. Even in the church where his holy relics were treasured in a glass coffin, he would hit the glass and cause trouble, frightening the guards and the Latin monks.”
The holy memory of Venerable Savvas the Sanctified is celebrated on December 5th.