Vatican officials discuss findings from the sarcophagus of St. Paul


Today at the Vatican, Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of the papal basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, and Professor Ulderico Santamaria, director of the scientific laboratory of the Vatican Museums, presented their findings from the sarcophagus of St. Paul.

In the presentation, Cardinal Cordero explained how two years ago he had suggested to the Pope that the tomb of St. Paul be subject to a scientific examination. Benedict XVI accepted the proposal but requested that the results only be announced at the conclusion of the Pauline Year.

Professor Santamaria dwelt on the technical aspects of the examination, explaining how a small hole was made in the sarcophagus through which a probe was then inserted. Fragments of blue linen, purple linen interwoven with gold thread, grains of red incense and bone fragments were discovered. Carbon dating on the organic elements from these findings suggest that they belong to a person who lived in the first or second centuries.

The Holy Father referred to these findings on June 28 during the closing ceremony for the Pauline Year. "This seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul, and it fills our heart with profound emotion."

The cardinal also added the Pope does not exclude the possibility of undertaking a more detailed examination of the sarcophagus of St. Paul. However, he went on, the Holy Father did not wish this to take place during the Pauline Year because, in order to open the sarcophagus, it would be necessary to dismantle the papal altar and the thirteenth-century canopy by Arnolfo di Cambio which, he concluded, would be a difficult and delicate task.

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