Vatican City, Sep 13, 2019 / 04:11 am
In a letter to Bartholomew I of Constantinople, Pope Francis has explained the unexpected gifting of a relic of St. Peter to the leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church in June, a gesture which generated controversy among some Catholics.
The pope wrote to the ecumenical patriarch Aug. 30, saying the decision to give the relic was born out of prayer and intended as a sign of the ongoing work and prayer toward visible communion between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
Pope Francis gave the relic to a member of a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which attended a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul June 29.
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. The bronze box contains nine fragments from what are believed to be the bones of St. Peter in the necropolis beneath St. Peter's Basilica.