Catacomb Study Wins Pontifical-Academies Award

Benedict XVI Congratulates Scholar

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 12, 2007 ( Benedict XVI congratulated Antongiulio Granelli for his doctoral thesis that won the 2007 award of the Pontifical Academies.

Granelli’s thesis “Il Cimitero di Panfilo sulla via Salaria vetus a Roma” (The Catacombs of Pamphilus on the Ancient Salarian Way of Rome) was recognized last Thursday. The Pope sent a message to the academy gathering through Archbishop Fernando Filoni, deputy at the Vatican Secretariat of State.

The Holy Father said the thesis “through deep study, guided by an interdisciplinary approach […] explains the little-studied Catacombs of Pamphilus […] situated within the meaningful intersection of Christian testimony.”

In 1996, Pope John Paul II established this prize to encourage and sustain the research and commitment of studious young people and worthy institutions whose cultural or artistic activities contribute to the promotion of Christian humanism.

In Granelli’s thanksgiving remarks, he said the research gave him the “fascinating experience of coming close to the atmosphere in which the Christian approached death and the transformation of his old life. With this sensation of sharing feelings and faith, one becomes more alive even in the catacombs of St. Phamphilus.”

The secretary of the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology, Olof Brandt, explained to ZENIT these catacombs are unique due to the confirmed presence of the martyr’s tomb.

Granelli told ZENIT that preparing the thesis implied “long hours and a dark and narrow environment.” But his work covered the entire length of the catacombs, including a topographic study and the distinct levels of the cemetery galleries.

With his research, he said he tried “to bring to light this martyr — about whom little is known — who gave his name to these catacombs.”

“For archaeological studies, it is rare, sadly, to receive material help in this country,” said Granelli. “One continues above all with passion, in the hope of finding a break in this most beautiful area.”

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