Pope Francis gives Orthodox patriarch relics of St. Peter

Pope Francis greets Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople outside the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy, July 7, 2018. Pope Francis greets Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople outside the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy, July 7, 2018. In what Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople described as a "brave and bold" gesture, Pope Francis gave the patriarch a famous reliquary containing bone fragments believed to belong to St. Peter. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In what Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople described as a "brave and bold" gesture, Pope Francis gave the patriarch a famous reliquary containing bone fragments believed to belong to St. Peter.

The only time the bronze reliquary has been displayed publicly was in November 2013, when Pope Francis had it present for public veneration as he celebrated the closing Mass for the Year of Faith, opened by Pope Benedict XVI.

Advertisement

The bronze case contains nine of the bone fragments discovered during excavations of the necropolis under St. Peter's Basilica that began in the 1940s.

In the 1960s, archaeologist Margherita Guarducci published a paper asserting that she had found St. Peter's bones near the site identified as his tomb.

While no pope has ever declared the bones to be authentic, St. Paul VI announced in 1968 that the "relics" of St. Peter had been "identified in a way which we can hold to be convincing."

Pope Paul took nine of the bone fragments, commissioned the bronze reliquary, and kept the relics in his private chapel in the papal apartments.

Pope Francis removed them from the chapel June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Patriarch Bartholomew had sent a delegation led by Archbishop Job of Telmessos to the Vatican for the feast day celebrations. After the solemn Mass, Pope Francis and Archbishop Job went down to St. Peter's tomb under the high altar to pray.

Then, the archbishop recounted, Pope Francis asked him to wait for him because he had a gift for his "brother" Patriarch Bartholomew. The pope came back and led the archbishop to his little blue Ford Focus and they were driven to the Apostolic Palace.

They entered the chapel of the old papal apartment, where Pope Francis chose not to live, and "the pope took the reliquary that his predecessor Paul VI had placed in the little chapel and offered it to his guest," according to Vatican News.

"For us, this was an extraordinary and unexpected event that we could not have hoped for," Vatican News quoted the archbishop as saying.

He phoned Patriarch Bartholomew as soon as he could to tell him the news.

Arrangements quickly were made for Msgr. Andrea Palmieri, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to accompany the relics to the Phanar, the Orthodox patriarchate's headquarters in Istanbul.

It was "another gigantic step toward concrete unity," Archbishop Job said.

At a ceremony June 30 to receive the relics and venerate them, Patriarch Bartholomew said, "Pope Francis made this grand, fraternal and historic gesture" of giving the Orthodox fragments of the relics of St. Peter.

"I was deeply moved," the patriarch said, according to the news published on the patriarchate's Facebook page along with 15 photos. "It was a brave and bold initiative of Pope Francis."

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Dr.Cajetan Coelho
2 weeks 6 days ago

Saint Peter the apostle - Pray for us.

Kenneth Aigbinode
2 weeks 6 days ago

Kindly help me with a biblical basis for departed Christians, saints or apostles praying for the living.

Gadus Morhua
2 weeks 4 days ago

Rev. 5-8; Rev. 8:3-4.

Stanley Kopacz
2 weeks 5 days ago

That pope! Giving away our stuff!

Will Nier
2 weeks 5 days ago

Wonderful. One day we shall all be one Church.

Adeolu Ademoyo
2 weeks 5 days ago

Yes! And thank you, Will Nier. Remember that this is in view of John 17:21! One day we shall all joyfully be ONE Church! I say a powerful Amen to your prayer with my soul!

FRAN ABBOTT
2 weeks 5 days ago

This is so moving — and in the right direction!

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of Pope Francis.]

Advertisement

The latest from america

Bolivian President Evo Morales presents a gift to Pope Francis at the government palace in La Paz, Bolivia, July 8. The gift was a wooden hammer and sickle -- the symbol of communism -- with a figure of the crucified Christ. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano/Illustration: America Media)
What Catholics (still) don’t understand about communism.
Dean DettloffJuly 23, 2019
You should not assume that America’s editorial position on communism has changed very much. It has not, Matt Malone, S.J. writes. What has also not changed is our willingness to hear views with which we may disagree but that we nonetheless think are worth hearing.
Matt Malone, S.J.July 23, 2019
Catholic leaders and advocates protest the Trump administration’s handling of detained immigrant children during a “Day of Action” on July 18 in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
Being arrested at a U.S. Senate office building, writes William Critchley-Menor, S.J., was an act of sincere resistance to a state that enforces the horrific treatment of children we have seen in immigrant detention centers.
Thousands of Puerto Ricans joined one of the biggest protests ever seen in the U.S. territory, with irate islanders pledging to drive Gov. Ricardo Rossello from office, in San Juan, Puerto Rico on July 22. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
The bishops said in a statement on July 19: “You, Mr. Governor, bribed and attacked people and groups that participate in our democratic coexistence and therefore cannot continue to exercise your role.”
America StaffJuly 22, 2019