A cloth with a drop of blood from the late Pope John Paul II has been stolen from Cologne Cathedral.

German police said a visitor noticed on Sunday that the religious relic had disappeared and alerted a church usher.

In a statement, police quoted the cathedral's provost, Gerd Bachner, lamenting the spiritual loss of the relic.

Police said the cloth was in a glass container that had been pried from a base of a sculpture commemorating the pope's visit to Cologne in 1980.

Bachner urged the thief to return the relic.

Pope John Paul II was the leader of the Catholic Church from 1978 until his death in 2005.