Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church has done it again. In a move which is sure to stir up controversy in the secular world and media today he venerated the bones of Saint Peter, who Catholics believe was the apostle Jesus appointed to lead his church and was the first pope. This occurred at the Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. The mass was celebrated at the conclusion of the “Year of Faith” as this year was dedicated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
Why will this stir up controversy? As anything the Catholic Church does, the secular media will be sure to jump on this as some kind of stunt by the Pope to get people to convert to Catholicism. The problem lies in the fact that no one is really sure if these bones belong to St. Peter or not. St. Peter’s Basilica was built over what has always been believed was the site of where St. Peter was crucified upside down and was later buried. The site was excavated in 1942 and several bones were found. Unfortunately these bones belonged to several different people. Because there is no DNA evidence of Peter to be found anywhere, it was not able to be determined if any of these bones were Peter’s. The evidence used to determine this is where Peter lay was an inscription found during the dig, “Peter is within.” Catholic tradition states that if a relic, such as these bones, is somehow physically connected to a saint’s legacy, they are considered “relics by contact.” Since this site has been believed for centuries to be the site where St. Peter rests, this is good enough for Pope Francis.
But like other burial sites from 2,000 years ago, such as that of Saint Paul, and other relics such as the Shroud of Turin, it is hard to know exactly if these are actual relics. But Catholics rely heavily on tradition and tradition says they are. Through the years however, as new scientific methods are developed to date artifacts and learn more about them, some of these artifacts come closer and closer to being verified as real.
The Shroud of Turin for example has long been believed to be the cloth used to bury Jesus in his tomb and from where his resurrection happened. Since its discovery the shroud has been called both real and a fake, yet, each time it has been tested, it is the most tested piece of material in the world, more evidence comes to light showing it is very possible it is authentic and that Jesus, or at least a man was wrapped in it after having been crucified.
Since Pope Francis was elevated to Pope in May, he has managed to stir up all kinds of controversy with remarks he has made and the secular press has jumped on these, taking them out of context, and have claimed Francis will be changing the long standing rules of the Catholic Church such as its stand against same-sex marriage, contraception, abortion and ordaining women as priests. Somehow this will also be spun as the Pope changing things again or more likely it will be seen as some kind of ploy by Catholics to fabricate history to prove their church is the true church, something most non-Catholics don’t believe.
Devout Catholics however, love their new pope and are glad every time Pope Francis “does it again” because he restores their faith.
Commentary by Paul Roy