The Year of Faith is going out with a bang!
For on Sunday, the bones of St. Peter will be on display for the veneration of the faithful in St. Peter’s Square for the first time in history. This momentous event will take place during the concluding Mass for the Year of Faith on November 24.
It was in 1950 that Pope Pius XII made the announcement that “the tomb of the prince of the apostles” had been found. For those of you who have visited Rome and toured the Scavi (excavations of Peter’s tomb), you know what an emotional impact that this viewing will have on the faithful. I will always remember the goosebumps I had while traveling on the subterranean ancient Roman floors beneath the Vatican crypt and hearing the guide say: Here is Peter!
The controversial story of the finding of Peter’s bones is told in a riveting and recently republished book by Fr. James Evangelist Walsh. Whether the bones are truly Peter’s can not be known for certain (though I am convinced), but let us say that the bones were found directly under the altar of St. Peter’s, they are of a robust man 60 or so years of age, the bones were wrapped in purple cloth interwoven with gold-thread (a sign of the great dignity of the person) and the location of St. Peter’s was built over the awkward location of this tomb. What is known for certain is that pilgrims have venerated this location from the beginnings of the Church.
Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”