Vatican City (AFP) - Bones believed to belong to Saint Peter, one of the founding fathers of the Catholic Church, went on display for the first time Sunday, as Pope Francis held a ceremony to end the "Year of Faith".
Tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered to catch a glimpse of the remains, eight fragments of bone between two and three centimetres (around one inch) long displayed on an ivory bed within a bronze chest on a pedestal in St. Peter's Square.
The chest, given to pope Paul VI in 1971 and usually kept in the tiny chapel of the papal apartments, was decorated with a carving of Peter, who was a fisherman before becoming the Church's first pope, casting his nets into the sea.
At the start of the solemn ceremony, Francis prayed before the chest, bordered by white and yellow roses, before blessing the bones with incense.
The bones have long been the object of controversy between historians and archaeologists: they were first discovered in a 1940 dig next to an ancient monument honouring Saint Peter, but ended up gathering dust in a storage box.
It was not until archaeologist Margherita Guarducci discovered graffiti near the excavated tomb reading "Petros eni", which could mean "Peter is here", that she requested tests on the fragments. ...more