Vatican Displays Bone Fragments Said to Be St. Peter's
For first time, pieces of bone are exhibited in public
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 24, 2013 1:00 PM CST
The relics of St. Peter are placed next to the altar prior to the start of a mass celebrated by Pope Francis for the end of the Year of Faith, in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Nov. 24, 2013.   (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

(Newser) – The Vatican publicly unveiled a handful of bone fragments purportedly belonging to St. Peter today, reviving the scientific debate and tantalizing mystery over whether the relics found in a shoe box truly belong to the first pope. The nine pieces of bone sat nestled like rings in a jewel box inside a bronze display case on the side of the altar during a Mass commemorating the end of the Vatican's yearlong celebration of the Christian faith. It was the first time they had ever been exhibited in public.

Pope Francis prayed before the fragments at the start of today's service and then clutched the case in his arms for several minutes after his homily. No pope has ever definitively declared the fragments to belong to the Apostle Peter, but Pope Paul VI in 1968 said fragments found in the necropolis under St. Peter's Basilica were "identified in a way that we can consider convincing." Some archaeologists dispute the finding. But last week, a top Vatican official, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, said it almost doesn't matter if archaeologists one day definitively determine that the bones aren't Peter's, saying Christians have prayed at Peter's tomb for two millennia and will continue to, regardless. Click for more.