In an ecumenical move, Pope Francis gave patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople a reliquary containing bone fragments of Saint Peter.
Last Saturday on the feasts of Saints Peter and Paul, patriarch Bartholomew sent a delegation to Rome for the day’s celebrations. After celebrating solemn Mass, Pope Francis met with Archbishop Job of Telmessos and prayed together in the tomb of Saint Peter under the high altar.
The Holy Father said to Job he had “a gift from God for the Church of Constantinople,” and together they drove back to the Apostolic Palace. There, he gave Job a small reliquary with bone fragments of Saint Peter that his predecessor Paul VI had placed in the chapel of the old papal apartment.
“I no longer live in the Apostolic Palace, I never use this chapel, I never serve the Holy Mass here, and we have Saint Peter’s relics in the basilica itself, so it will be better if they will be kept in Constantinople. This is my gift to the Church of Constantinople. Please take this reliquary and give it to my brother Patriarch Bartholomew. This gift is not from me, it is a gift from God.”
Job called the ecumenical gesture “another gigantic step toward concrete unity.” Flown to Constantinople, patriarch Bartholomew received the relics in a ceremony on Sunday.
“Pope Francis made this grand, fraternal and historic gesture. It was a brave and bold initiative of Pope Francis.”
The reliquary had only ever been on display publicly once before in November of 2013, made available for veneration by Pope Francis as he celebrated the closing Mass for the Year of the Faith opened by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
The bone fragments were discovered in the 1940s during excavations underneath Saint Peter’s Basilica. The bronze case contains nine bone “relics” that Paul VI said in 1968 are “identified in a way which we can hold to be convincing.”