Pope Francis gives relic of St. Peter’s bones to Orthodox patriarch

Vatican City, Jul 3, 2019 / 10:50 am (CNA).- Pope Francis gave unexpectedly a reliquary containing what are believed to be bone fragments of St. Peter to Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, an ecumenical gesture that has generated controversy among some Catholics.

The pope took the reliquary from the chapel in the papal apartments, where Pope Saint Paul VI had placed the bronze reliquary containing eight bone fragments after they were discovered in a 1952 dig under St. Peter’s Basilica.

A delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople were guests at the June 29 Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, as has been customary in recent years.

After the Mass, Pope Francis brought Eastern Orthodox Archbishop Job to a chapel in the papal apartments and offered the chapel’s reliquary as a gift, according to Vatican News. The bronze box bears the inscription, “From the bones found in the hypogeum of the Vatican Basilica, which are believed to be of Blessed Peter the Apostle.”

Pope Francis had previously brought the bronze reliquary containing the purported bone fragments for public veneration in St. Peter’s Square on Nov. 24, 2013 at a Mass for the feast of Christ the King, where Eastern patriarchs were also present.

At the time of the public veneration in 2013, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said, “There is a serious possibility these are St. Peter’s bones, but we do not go beyond that.”

The bone fragments were discovered in an excavation of tombs under St. Peter’s Basilica near Greek graffiti dating back to the year 160 that read, “Peter is here.” Analysis of the bones found that they belong to a man around 60 to 70 years old, and that had been wrapped in a purple cloth woven with gold.

On June 26, 1968 Paul VI said that the bones had been “identified in a way which we can hold to be convincing … we have reason to believe that the few but sacrosanct mortal remains of the Prince of the Apostles have been traced.”

The Orthodox delegation brought the reliquary to Istanbul, where Monsignor Andrea Palmieri, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, personally gave it to Patriarch Bartholomew.

Bartholomew, as Patriarch of Constantinople, is regarded as “first among equals” within the Orthodox communion, and is at least seen by many as the worldwide leader of Orthodoxy.

Orthodox Archbishop Job called the gesture “another gigantic step towards concrete unity.” However the move has generated controversy among Catholics.

Pope Francis said in his meeting with the ecumenical delegation June 28: “The feast of Saints Peter and Paul, which falls on the same day in the liturgical calendars of East and West, invites us to renew the charity that generates unity.”

“I am increasingly convinced that the restoration of full unity between Catholics and Orthodox will come about through respect for specific identities and a harmonious coexistence in legitimate forms of diversity. The Holy Spirit, for that matter, is the one who creatively awakens a multiplicity of gifts, harmonizes them and brings them into authentic unity,” the pope told the Orthodox leaders.

“I consider it valuable in our encounters to share our roots, to rediscover the goodness that the Lord has sown and made grow in each of us, and to share it, learning from one another and helping each other not to fear dialogue and concrete collaboration,” Pope Francis said.


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  1. I ask this question with utter seriousness: is it the Pope’s to give away such relics and these relics in particular? Could he also conceivably give away any painting or sculpture? Do they belong to the papacy, Bergoglio or the Catholic Church? Could he conceivably (in a state of derangement?) transfer the Blessed Sacrament to Constantinople in a gesture towards unity?

    I ask based on this scene in the article by Diana Montagna/Life Site News:

    ” ‘When we entered the chapel,’ the Orthodox archbishop said, ‘Pope Francis explained to me that Pope Paul VI wanted to keep a part of the relics of St. Peter from the Vatican Basilica in his private chapel.'”

    “The Pope told him:’I no longer live in the Apostolic Palace, I never use this chapel, I never [celebrate] Holy Mass here, and we have St. Peter’s relics in the basilica itself, so it will be better if they will be kept in Constantinople.”

    “ ‘This is my gift to the Church of Constantinople,” the Pope added, as he handed over the relics.’Please take this reliquary and give it to my brother Patriarch Bartholomew.’ ”

    So in other words based on his own living arrangements, where he celebrates Mass, his own rationale and who is “brother” is (friend?)…and he does so despite all the politics in the Orthodox world, Russian Church etc…and those poor Uniates…he gives these relics of the Church as his? gift to be taken to a country dominated by Islam?

    Again I ask a naïve question…but is Bergoglio as Pope able to simply decide to give away these relics as “my (his) gift?

    Bergoglio: “I…I…I..I…my…my…”

  2. The monstrous ego of this man is apparent yet again, in a completely destructive and contemptuous act. He positively hates the Church, which he believes he has inherited as his own personal property. Not only can he give away Her material possessions, but Her moral and spiritual treasures are his to dispose of as well. He hands over moral teaching and authority without a thought. If the end of the world is delayed long enough, a future pope will pronounce anathema on Bergoglio, there is no doubt about it.

  3. So tired of Francis and his continued betrayal of the Church and the Faith.
    Please God, let this trainwreck of a Pontificate come to an end.

  4. Totally agree with the previous posters. Popes who have done this kind of thing – as Paul VI & JP2 also did – are acting in a passive-aggressive way, that shows that as far as they are concerned the CC is garbage now, and always was garbage. They may not intend that message, but that is what is conveyed.

    This latest incident does not stand alone. It is part of a pattern. The “trainwreck” is the continual substitution of personal ego by successive Popes, in place of the Sacred Tradition of the Church. Popes are not free to jettison it – they are subject to it, and are supposed to guard it inviolate, and to interpret it faithfully. They are not above it, but are subject to it. The egotism of the Popes since Paul VI is, from one POV, an example of what can happen when an Ultramontane Papacy becomes a law unto itself.

    IMO, these men will in due time be as denounced as antipopes – though some of their acts could be accepted as Catholic. It is less of a problem to say there has been a lengthy vacancy in the Papacy, than to accept unCatholic novelties and false teaching as orthodox Catholicism.

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