ROME, JULY 3, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Investigation into the tomb held to be St. Paul's does not confirm that it is in fact the Apostle who is buried there, but it also does not contradict that tradition, Vatican officials noted.
Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, and Ulderico Santamaria, director of the diagnostic laboratory for the conservation and restoration of the Vatican Museums, discussed the investigations during a press conference today.
Benedict XVI had asked that the results of the research would not be announced until the close of the Pauline Jubilee Year, which ended last Monday. The Holy Father himself was the first to divulge the findings, during his homily at the Vespers service that brought the jubilee to an end.
The Pope explained: "A tiny hole was drilled in the sarcophagus, which in so many centuries had never been opened, in order to insert a special probe which revealed traces of a precious purple-colored linen fabric, with a design in gold leaf, and a blue fabric with linen threads. Grains of red incense and protein and chalk substances were also found. In addition, minute fragments of bone were sent for carbon-14 testing by experts unaware of their provenance. The fragments proved to belong to someone who had lived between the first and second centuries. This would seem to confirm the unanimous and undisputed tradition which claims that these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul."
Cardinal Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo classifed the results as "not only interesting but also [results] that mesh with" what is believed about the location of Paul's remains.
The cardinal, whose resignation as archpriest of the basilica for reasons of age was accepted today, indicated that further investigations could be a possibility in the future.
He noted that to actually open the sarcophagus will be difficult, because it will require dismantling the papal altar on top.
For his part, Santamaria explained how the technique of drilling into the sarcophagus "reduced to a minimum [...] the risks of deteriorating the interior by preventing any oxygen from getting into the tomb."