St. Peter's bones were put on display for the first time at the Vatican
this past Sunday as tens of thousands gathered during Pope Francis' ceremony to end the "Year of Faith," which the Vatican said attracted 8.5 million to Rome this year.
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Questions remain about the bone fragments, which were recovered during a 1940 excavation on a site that is believed to have been where St. Peter was buried after he was martyred in 40 A.D. There is no way to prove the bones belonged to the Apostle Peter.
Originally a fisherman, St. Peter became one of Jesus' twelve apostles, according to the New Testament, and was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero.
Until Sunday's ceremony, the bones had been contained inside a chest at a small chapel at the Papal's quarters, Agence France-Presse reported.
According to NBC News, while no Pope has ever definitively declared the bone fragments to belong to St. Peter
, Pope Paul VI, who in 1968 received the bones from the dig that began 30 years earlier, said they were identified "in a manner which we believe convincing."
The bones had been discovered by archaeologist Margherita Guarducci, who, according to the AFP, found the bones near graffiti in the excavated tomb that read "Petros eni" which could mean "Peter is here." After the bones were tested, they were found to have belonged to a robust man who died between 60 and 70 years of age and had been buried in a purple, gold-threaded cloth, the AFP noted.
Vatican official Archbishop Rino Fisichella addressed the ongoing debate surrounding the authenticity of the bones over the weekend in a conference with reporters.
"It's not as if pilgrims who go to the altar (of Peter's tomb) think that in that moment in which they profess their faith that below them are the relics of Peter, or of another or another still," the Archbishop told reporters. "They go there to profess the faith."
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