Tradition and mystery surround the Vatican City and all that it holds, not just for Catholics but for people all around the world. As the home of the Catholic Church, representing a religion that has existed for thousands of years, the Vatican serves as a place of great faith and awe for many who travel to it each year.One of the greatest mysteries of the Vatican lies under St Peter’s Basilica where the tombs of numerous popes lie, the most sacred of these being the relics of St. Peter, the first Pope of the Catholic Church.
The bones were found during excavations under St. Peter’s Basilica in the years following Pope Pius XI 1939 death. Pope Pius XI had requested he be buried in the grottoes underneath the Basilica where dozens of popes had been previously buried. During these excavations, archaeologists found a funery monument with a casket built in honor of St. Peter with an engraving in Greek that read “Petros eni” or “Peter is here.” According to a 2012 book written by a Vatican correspondent, Bruno Bartolini, “The Ears of the Vatican,” these relics were given to one of the basilica workers who stored them in a shoe box kept in a cupboard.
These were discovered by Greek scholar, Margherita Guarducci, who reported them to Pope Paul VI who proclaimed they were the bones of the first Catholic Pope Peter.
That shoe box pales in comparison to where the relics are stored now.They now sit in a jewel box inside a broze display case in St. Peter’s Basilica. This is the first time they have ever been exhibited in public. Pope Francis unveiled them during a Mass commemorating the end of the Vatican’s yearlong celebration of Christian faith. He prayed before
the bones at the start of the mass and clutched the case in his arms for several minutes upon completion of his homily. Many archaeologists dispute the finding that these bones belong to Peter and claim scientific evidence could prove this treasured claim false.
However, in 1968, Pope Paul VI claimed the fragments were identified in a way that “we can consider convincing.” Whatever that turns out to mean, Archbishop Rino Fisichella told
reporters that regardless of whether they are one day determined to not belong to St. Peter, it does not matter. “It’s not as if pilgrims who go to the altar (of Peter’s tomb) think that in that moment in which they profess their faith that below them are the relics of Peter, or of another or another still,” he said. “They go there to profess the faith.”