Pope Francis Displays St. Peter’s Relics and Stirs Scientific Debate

Pope Francis put the relics of St. Peter, the first pope, on display on Sunday. This was the first-ever display for public veneration in Vatican City. The display took place at St. Peter’s Square (in Vatican City). This display revived the debate among scientists and historians who wonder whether the contents found in the case really do belong to St. Peter.

St. Peter’s relics are kept in a bronze display case. The relics consist of nine pieces of bone. The bone pieces are nestled comfortably in the box. Pope Francis prayed before the pieces of bone at the beginning of Sunday’s Mass service. The case was then set on the side of the altar and Mass proceeded as the end of the Vatican’s yearlong celebration of the Christian faith was commemorated.

Archaeologists are having a hard time believing the bones are the remains of St. Peter. According to NBC, no pope has ever definitely declared that the bones belong to St. Peter, but in 1968, Pope Paul VI said fragments found in the necropolis under St. Peter’s Basilica were “identified in a way that we consider convincing.”

The bones were found during an excavation in 1939. While excavating, archaeologists found a funerary monument. In the monument was a casket that was built in Peter’s memory. The engraving on the casket read “Petros eni,” which translates to “Peter is here.” The remains led to a dispute between Vatican Jesuits and archaeologists, the latter wanting to conduct research on the remains, while popes never permit an extensive research study due in part to a 1,000-year-old curse that threatens anyone who disturbs the peace of St. Peter’s tomb.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, a top Vatican official, said it “almost doesn’t matter if archaeologists one day definitely determine that the bones are not those of Peter’s, saying Christians have prayed at Peter’s tomb for two millennia and will continue to, regardless.”

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