In what can only be described as another unique event under this Franciscan pontificate, today the Catholic faithful got a chance to glimpse the relics of the prince of apostles, the fisherman of Galilee, the first pope and vicar of Christ - St Peter.
In a tender moment during the proclamation of the Creed at the Mass marking the close of the Year of Faith, St Peter's 266th successor tenderly cradled the reliquary.
While pious tradition had always held that the altar of St Peter's basilica was built on the tomb of the apostle, a tomb with Greek graffeti proclaiming it as the tomb of Peter was uncovered during excavations under St Peter's in the 1950's. While the archelogical evidence is said to be inconclusive as St Thomas Aquinas noted “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”
Fr James Martin SJ makes the point on his Facebook page that many scholars dismissed the idea as mere "pious tradition." Many "merely legendary" religious sites, and places of pilgrimage, often turn out to have a basis in fact. The reason is simple: It is human nature to remember places associated with important events. Sites associated with the life of Jesus (in the Holy Land) and with the lives of the saints (in Rome and in other places) would have been remembered by witnesses, and then passed down to later generations, who would treasure that information and venerate the sites. Remember too that in antiquity people didn't move around much; families would rooted to one place for generations, and so when early Christians visited, say, Capernaum, they would have been shown where St. Peter made his home. To take another example, the Pool of Bethesda, in Jerusalem--where Jesus heals a lame man, long thought to be an "allegory," was discovered in the late 19th century, and was found by archaeologists to have "five porticoes," precisely as the Gospel of John had described. So we need to be careful what we dismiss as only "legendary" or "pious tradition."
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam
et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversus eam.
Et tibi dabo claves regni caelorum.
Quodcumque ligaveris super terram, erit ligatum et in caelis,
et quodcumque solveris super terram, erit solutum et in caelis.
Et tibi dabo claves regni caelorum
And upon this Rock I will build My Church:
and the gates of hell shall not overcome it.
And I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind upon earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you release upon earth shall be released in heaven,
and I will give you the keys to the kingdom of Heaven.