Pope Benedict says relics are those of St. Paul

By on July 2, 2009

Vatican CityThe Roman Catholic Church’s Year of St. Paul ended with a flourish on June 28, as Pope Benedict XVI announced that scientists had authenticated the first-century saint’s earthly remains under a church in Rome.Carbon testing of bone fragments in a sarcophagus beneath the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, along with the presence of incense grains and purple linen laminated with pure gold, “seems to confirm the unanimous and undisputed tradition according to which these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul,” Benedict said.”All this fills our soul with profound emotion,” he added.The Pope spoke at a vespers service to mark the end of a year-long celebration honouring the “Apostle of the Gentiles,” who was martyred in Rome around the year 65 A.D.Archaeologists excavated the fourth-century sarcophagus, which had been covered up after an 1823 fire, in response to demand from the many pilgrims who flocked there during the millennium year 2000.The Pope’s statement came a day after the official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported the discovery of the earliest known image of Paul, a fourth-century fresco in the Tomb of Tecla, also in Rome.In the fresco, the saint appears as a bald man with a black beard, prominent nose and furrowed brow, his lean oval face surrounded by a golden halo.

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