Bones thought to belong to St. Peter to be displayed for the first time
Pope Francis, followed by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, right, visits the necropolis where pagans and early Christians were buried under St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican and where St. Peter is believed to be buried, April 1, 2013 (L'Osservatore Romano)
VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican's decision to publicly exhibit the purported relics of the Apostle Peter for the first time this weekend has spotlighted the intense scientific debate over whether the bones actually belong to the first bishop of Rome.
No pope has ever definitively declared the bones to be Peter's, though Pope Paul VI in 1968 said fragments found in the necropolis under St. Peter's Basilica were "identified in a way that we can consider convincing." Some Vatican archaeologists disagreed, and debate continues today much as it has over the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin.
A senior Vatican official, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, acknowledged the debate Monday but suggested it almost doesn't matter if scientists determine the bones aren't Peter's since Christians have venerated them for two millennia and will continue to.