St Peter - Vatican

Vatican Announced Bones of St Peter will be Displayed Publicly for First Time

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The Vatican has announced that it will display for the first time in history the remains of St Peter  to mark the end of the Year of Faith.

According to the New Testament, Saint Peter was one of Jesus’ twelve apostles and was assigned a leadership role over the other disciples. He is venerated as a saint and traditionally considered to be the first bishop and Pope by the Catholic Church.  According to Christian tradition, Peter is said to have been crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero Augustus Caesar. It is traditionally held that he was crucified upside down at his own request, since he saw himself unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus Christ.

Catholic tradition holds that Saint Peter's site of crucifixion is located in the Clementine Chapel, while his mortal bones and remains are contained in the underground Confessio of St. Peter's Basilica, where Pope Paul VI announced the excavated discovery of a first-century Roman cemetery in 1968.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella said that millions of pilgrims marked the Year of Faith by making a pilgrimage to St Peter’s tomb and renewing their profession of faith there.   Pope Benedict XVI declared that Year of Faith would begin on 11th October, 2012 and it is due to end this month on 24th November. The purpose was to set aside a year for Catholics throughout the world to rediscover their faith, a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversation to the Lord.”

The bones were first discovered during excavations of the necropolis under St Peter’s Basilica in the 1940s near a monument erected in the 4th century to honour St Peter. The church never officially declared the bones authentic, but a series of tests conducted on the bones in the 1950s and 60s convinced Pope Paul VI that they had been “identified in a way we can hold to be convincing.”

The bones of St Peter have always been kept in a box in the grotto of the basilica and never placed on public display. But Archbishop Fisichella announced that “the culminating sign of the year will be the exposition for the first time of the relics traditionally recognized as those of the apostle who gave his life for the Lord here.” 

His wording is cautious, perhaps to leave room for the possibility that the bones do not in fact belong to St Peter.  The announcement that St Peter’s bones had been found marked the culmination of one of the most famous and important archaeological investigations of the Vatican; a vast undertaking which had engaged the talents of scientists, historians and linguists for a quarter of a century. But more than fifty years after the announcement, the authenticity of the bones is still a matter that is hotly debated among experts.

By April Holloway

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