The remains of St Peter, the Church’s first pope and one of the earliest and closest disciples of Jesus Christ, will be on show at the Vatican.
For months Pope Francis has been planning a special service at St Peter’s Basilica to mark the end of the Year of Faith, which officially ends today.
Christians believe St Peter was the first leader of the Church established by Jesus. While there can be no formal DNA identification of the bones, Catholics will queue for hours to see the relics.
The special exhibit is designed to end the Year of Faith for Catholics around the world, launched by Pope Benedict XVI last November to help deepen people’s faith. For centuries the bones lay hidden under St Peter’s Basilica, which was originally built in the fourth century by Emperor Constantine. The Roman leader built the Basilica over an old pagan cemetery believed to be the burial site of Peter, who was martyred by being crucified upside down.
In 1939 Pope Pius XII authorised a dig on the site and three years later archaeologists found what they thought were Peter’s remains. It is widely believed that these are ancient human remains found in a spot devoted to Peter’s memory. There is no DNA sample with which to make a comparison and no way of proving who the bones belong to.
A top Vatican official conceded as much in 2000, saying that references to Peter’s remains were “a bit relative”.
Read more: Express UK