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article imagePope Announces Discovery of Saint Paul’s Tomb

By Christopher Szabo     Jun 30, 2009 in World
Pope Benedict XVI says the remains of one of Christianity’s founders, Saint Paul of Tarsus, have been found in a basilica in Rome. The Pontiff said scientific tests had shown the tomb to be that of the apostle.
The pope said although the tomb in the basilica of Saint Paul Outside-The-Walls in Rome had not been opened, a probe inserted through a small hole had revealed traces of purple linens decorated with gold sequins, red incense grains as well as the remains. According to the Guardian, Benedict XVI said:
Small fragments of bone were carbon dated by experts who knew nothing about their provenance and results showed they were from someone who lived between the first and second century. This seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that these are the mortal remains of Paul the apostle.
The pope added the discovery:
Fills our souls with great emotion.
The Telegraph said it was believed for centuries that St. Paul’s remains were buried beneath the basilica’s main altar, which was covered with a marble slab inscribed with the Latin words: ”Paulo Apostolo Mart — Paul, apostle and martyr.”
In 2006, Vatican archaeologists discovered a white marble sarcophagus hidden beneath the floor of the basilica —the largest in Rome after Saint Peter’s — and tests have been ongoing since.
However, a Dutch expert in the archaeological study of bones and organic remains for the German state of Saxony, Rengert Elburg, said the claim could never be proven. ”It’s impossible to establish it’s him,” he told the German press agency dpa. He added that even genetic analysis wouldn’t help, as the saint had no proven descendants whose DNA could be compared: ”But the bones could tell you the sex and age of death of the person.”
Basilica of Saint Paul s Outside-The-Walls
Basilica of Saint Paul's Outside-The-Walls
Deacon Steve-flickr
A persistent tradition has it that Paul was beheaded. Elburg said this could be verified if the body were exhumed:
Traces of beheading can be identified with absolute certainty. The cut was usually found between the third and fourth vertebrae.
Warning that the tomb should be opened with the utmost care, because fabric could fall apart at a touch, Elburg said
It will be comparable to opening the tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh. Roman fabrics in the time of St Paul were of very high quality. They had wool, linen and even silk.
It was unlikely that the body would be embalmed, Elburg said:
Doubtless nothing like that was done with this early Christian person.
Pope Benedict made the announcement at the end of the Pauline year, brought to mark the 2,000th anniversary of the Christian apostle’s birth.
Saul of Tarsus, in what is now Turkey, was a Jew from a very strict sect who first persecuted the Jewish followers of Jesus Christ, and then, following a vision in which he saw a great light, he converted to Christianity and began to preach. He changed his name to small ”one” (Paulus) and was the first of the leading Christians to preach to non-Jews, becoming known as the messenger (”apostle”) to the Gentiles (non-Jews, or Nations.) Paul became prominent among the early Christians because of his extensive education in both Jewish theology and Greek philosophy.
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