Pope Francis gives relics of St Peter to Orthodox patriarch

A reliquary containing bone fragments believed to belong to St Peter passed from the Vatican’s safekeeping to Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople last week.

“For us, this was an extraordinary and unexpected event that we could not have hoped for,” said Archbishop Job of Telmessos who received the relics on Bartholomew’s behalf.

Job had been at the Vatican for the 29 June Sts Peter and Paul feast day celebrations.

After the celebratory Mass, Francis and Job went down to St Peter’s tomb under the high altar to pray.

Job said after they had prayed, Francis told him he had a gift for his brother Patriarch Bartholomew.

He then drove Job to the Apostolic Palace, took a bronze reliquary containing nine fragments of St Peter’s bones that Pope St Paul VI had placed in the Palace’s little chapel and offered it to Job.

The bone fragments were discovered during excavations of the necropolis under St Peter’s Basilica that began in the 1940s.

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

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

Job says he phoned Patriarch Bartholomew as soon as he could to tell him about the gift.

It was “another gigantic step toward concrete unity,” Job said.

At a ceremony last week to receive the relics and venerate them, 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. It was a brave and bold initiative of Pope Francis.”



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