…some of your questions answered after Mass…
It is wonderful to see people from across our Diocese, our country – and from the Universal Church – all praying for one another during the Cathedral live-stream of Sunday Mass. We do sometimes get questions and discussions going on during the live-stream, which may be answered here so that it doesn’t distract from Holy Mass…but also, because the live chat only allows for 200 characters, and this can lead to misunderstandings or lack of clarity.
One of these was today, on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, when concern was expressed that Pope Francis had ‘removed the bones of St Peter from the Vatican’.
The true story, however, is as far as possible from ‘grave-robbing’, and gives us an insight into how Catholics have through the ages viewed the relics of Saints and, indeed, the whole idea of burial of our mortal remains.
Last year, Pope Francis presented a reliquary containing nine of the small fragments of bone discovered in the 1960s, believed to be part of the relics of St Peter, to the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. In making this noble gift, Pope Francis belongs to a tradition going back to the roots of the early Church, of gifts and exchanges of relics of the Saints.
Many Saints’ Feast Days are of the ‘Translation of their Relics’ from one place to another (often several other places!) and many Popes and Saints have given similar gifts of relics from time out of mind. This is a practice carried out with great reverence. The rest of the relics associated with St Peter remain in the care of his Basilica, and in this particular case, Pope Francis made this gift to honour the Saint, out of Christian Charity towards fellow believers, and in the hope that the intercessions of St Peter will bring separated brethren together.