St. Peter & Paul: Dedication of the Basilicas

Friends in Christ, today we honor the two great Basilica’s in Rome of St. Peter and St. Paul. If you ever go to Rome, these are ‘must-sees:’ St. Peter’s, and St. Paul outside the walls.
St. Peter’s is sort of like ‘home’ for us. The heart of this great church is the tomb of St. Peter, below the main altar.
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As modern times approached, skeptics started to say that surely that was no tomb of Peter under there, how could the Church make that claim.
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So in the 1940’s, the Pope allowed excavations to be conducted under the Church. A surprising discovery was that the tomb of Peter contained various bones of various people, and even animal bones. The remains of Peter seemed to not be there. Was the Church wrong all these years? So more excavations began.
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We know that Peter was martyred in Nero’s Circus, near the present site of the Basilica. He was buried a short distance away in a small cemetery. In the course of the centuries monuments and chapels were built over his grave. In the excavations in the 1940’s, elements of these cemeteries were discovered under St. Peters basilica, but where were his bones?
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Now there was a significant wall in the area of the tomb of Peter, the famous ‘red wall’, as archeologists called it, dating back to the 3rd century. Covering the surface of the wall was an enormous amount of Christian writing, as if devoted faithful had passed here many times. The writings on the wall contain themes of victory, and there are the names of Christ, of Mary, and – many times, the name Petrus, Petrus, Petrus, on that wall. Inside the red wall was discovered a secret hiding place, lined with rich marble, hollowed out in the wall and hidden. There, wrapped in rich, purple cloth interwoven with gold – were bones! These unique bones were of a man, of sturdy build, 60 – 70 years old. The valuable purple cloth with gold, used to wrap them, shows that it was a person of high dignity.
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Finally, the bones of this particular man were intact, except – there were no feet. Missing feet, why? We remember from tradition, that Peter was crucified upside down. ‘I am not worthy to die like Christ, said Peter.’ So he was crucified upside down, and the removal of such a body in haste would probably involve cutting off the feet.
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The tomb with other bones was likely a diversion, so that enemies would not know the real location of the bones of St. Peter; only the Faithful knew that they were really there, in the ‘red wall.’
On June 26, 1968, Pope Paul VI announced that the relics of St. Peter had been found.

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