Pope Benedict XVI has said that a scientific analysis of a tomb thought to contain the remains of Saint Paul, which has never been opened in 19 centuries, has uncovered ancient bone fragments.
The pope, speaking at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-The-Walls in Rome, said the discovery confirmed the view the tomb belonged to the apostle.
The coffin, inside the basilica, had “recently been the object of a scientific analysis”, said Benedict on Sunday addressing a service at the end of year-long celebrations dedicated to Saint Paul.
“A tiny hole was made to introduce a probe” which led to the retrieval of “miniscule bone fragments, and carbon dating showed they belonged to someone who lived between the first and the second century,” the pope said.
“That seems to confirm the undisputed, and long-held view that the tomb contains the remains of Paul the Apostle,” Benedict said.
The chief priest of the basilica, Cardinal Andrea Codero Lanza di Montezemolo, said Friday that the pope had not ruled out “one day ordering a more detailed analysis” of the remains.
He added that tests had been carried out on the tomb, situated under the basilica’s altar, with such an analysis in mind, but opening it would be “a big job, given the tomb is enormous and it might involve the demolition of the altar.”