.- Archeologists have announced that a sarcophagus possibly containing the remains of St. Paul was found directly behind a marble plaque with the inscription, “Apostle Paul, martyr,” below the main altar at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
Giorgio Filippi, an archeologist who works for the Vatican Museums and who led the excavation team, told the Italian daily “Avvenire,” “We have discovered a sarcophagus or container of relics. We know that in 390, that is, when the emperors Theodosius, Valentino II and Arcadius expanded the Basilica, the remains were known to be those of St. Paul.”
The sarcophagus has a small whole through which a camera could be inserted, but for the moment Filippi considers the discovery to be “sufficient.”
The discovery was made by a team of experts from the Vatican Museums in response to a request from the administrator of St. Paul's basilica, Archbishop Francesco Gioia.
During the Jubilee Year 2000, the archbishop noticed that thousands of pilgrims were inquiring about the location of St. Paul's tomb, and he decided to make the formal request for excavations to begin.
The sarcophagus was discovered during excavations which took place between June of 2002 and May of 2003, and on February 21, Filippi will announce the discovery at the Germanic Archeological Institute of Rome.
When the remains of St. Peter were discovered in 1941, it took the Church 35 years to determine they were indeed those of the first Pope. It is likely a similar amount of time will be needed to determine of the remains found at St. Paul’s Basilica are in fact those of the “Apostle to the Gentiles.”