Aide Comments on Discoveries in Paul's Tomb

Affirms Rome’s Centrality to Christianity

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 6, 2009 ( A Vatican spokesman is affirming that recent discoveries confirm Rome’s centrality to Christianity due to the presence and veneration of the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, stated this on the latest episode of «Octava Dies,» a weekly Vatican Television program.

He focused his commentary on results of scientific research regarding the remains contained in the sarcophagus under the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

The priest noted that Benedict XVI’s announcement of the results «provoked an understandable emotion in the Catholic world at the close of the Pauline year.»

At the June 29 vespers service that closed the Pauline Jubilee Year, the Pope reported the scientific discoveries that «seem to confirm the unanimous and undisputed tradition which claims that these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul.»

This «great emotion,» Father Lombardi affirmed, is analogous to the reaction surrounding «the major archaeological investigations that took place beneath St. Peter’s Basilica following the wishes of Pius XII, which confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that exactly beneath the central altar was the tomb of the Apostle Peter in the ancient Vatican necropolis.»

«Rome is the center of Christianity not because it was capital of the ancient empire,» he explained, «but because in it the princes of the Apostles suffered martyrdom and their tombs have always been looked after and venerated.»

The spokesman continued, «Even if in our modern culture the veneration of relics is not as much practiced as in the past, the places and concrete mementos of the life and witness of those who preceded us, the saints in particular, retain great value for understanding our rootedness in the living tradition of the faith.»

Referring to the Pontiff’s words, the priest affirmed, «Peter and Paul, the rock and the light of proclamation, these disciples of Jesus, who were so different, but in a certain complementary sense, continue attracting our attention and our steps toward Rome ‘ad limina Apostolorum’ [to the thresholds of the Apostles].»

He concluded, «They remain alive among us to orient and impassion our faith and to re-launch it to the ends of the earth.»

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