TERMOLI, Italy, SEPT. 14, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Paul’s beloved disciple was a source of unity for Catholics and Russian Orthodox last Friday, as representatives from both Churches gathered around St. Timothy’s relics in Termoli, Italy.
The Orthodox delegation included Archbishop Zosimo of Elista and Bishop Aristarh of Kemerovo.
The papal nuncio to Great Britain, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, also attended the event, recalling his long tenure as the nuncio in Russia. The local bishop, Gianfranco De Luca, welcomed the group.
The delegations are developing a plan for Bishop De Luca to take the saint’s skull to Russia for Orthodox Lent, while an Orthodox bishop will lead the delegation that will return the relic to Termoli. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow will finalize the plan.
Bishop De Luca gave the Orthodox bishops two small relics of St. Timothy, while his Orthodox guests presented him with an icon and a relic of St. Seraphim.
St. Timothy’s relics were discovered in 1945 during restoration to the Basilica Cathedral of Termoli.
For many years, the relics had been concealed to keep them safe, so much so that awareness of the saint’s resting place was forgotten, even by local residents.
The small niche was discovered with a marble tile, reading “Here rests Blessed Timothy disciple of the Apostle Paul.”
His skull had always been kept in a private chapel apart.
A 1977 book on the Diocese of Termoli relates that Timothy’s relics were taken to the city by a count returning from the crusades. This information is not corroborated in historical texts, but what is known is that the relics were hidden in 1239 about three feet from the cathedral floor.
There are no documents that attest explicitly to the translation of the relics from the East to the Adriatic city, but it has not been disputed. In 1947, this account was upheld by the Historical Commission of the Sacred Congregation of Rites.