07/03/2009, 00.00
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Evidence supports sarcophagus remains are those of St. Paul

Scientific data presented in the Vatican. Quality and type of cloth and incense found confirm the remains of an illustrious personage linked to religion. Carbon 14 examination "neither denied nor confirmed." Further investigation required.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - He dressed in fine wool fabrics, colour purple, with traces of pure gold, indicating an important personality, there are traces of incense, a sign of strong religious significance and the carbon dating exam, C14, dates the remains to between the I-II century.

These are the results of initial scientific studies conducted on the remains held within the sarcophagus of St. Paul, inside the Roman basilica dedicated to the Apostles to the Gentiles. In order to scientifically prove that the remains are his, further investigation is required. Those carried out so far "do not confirm and do not exclude" that this is the case. Which is no small thing.

The results of scientific tests on the content of the sarcophagus of St. Paul were summarized today in the Press Office of the Holy See by card. Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of the basilica, and Ulderico Santamaria, Professor of Science and Material Technology at the University of Tuscia and director of laboratory diagnostics for the conservation and restoration of the Vatican Museums.  

The inquiry into the sarcophagus, that had never been opened over the centuries, was accomplished by making a tiny puncture to introduce a special probe, which allowed for observation and examples to be extracted, while maintaining, said Prof. Santamaria  respect for "the sacred nature of the site." Carbon dating, he went on to state, revealed that the remains date back to a period between the first and second century, which coincides with tradition, but certainly the window of time covers two centuries. In short it neither confirms nor denies that the remains are those of the Saint. For this further tests will be required.

 The information provided today was partly anticipated by Benedict XVI, during ceremonies to close the Pauline Year.  The tests, the Pope had said, "seem to confirm the unanimous and undisputed tradition that these are the mortal remains of the apostle Paul, all this - he commented - fills our souls with deep emotion."  

Today’s announcement in a certain sense was the last act in  card. Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo’s role as archpriest of Basilica of Saint Paul.  In fact today, the Pope accepted his resignation having reached the age of retirement, appointing in his place Msgr. Francesco Monterisi, the current secretary of the Congregation of Bishops and the College of Cardinals: in the next consistory he should be granted a red hat in accordance with the tradition of appointing Cardinal all those who are secretary of the College of Cardinals during Conclave.

 Today card. Lanza di Montezemolo thanked the Pope for the possibility he was granted on “having already exceeded the limit of the canonical 75 years (he is over 80, ed), to contribute to the Pauline Year and, since I am an architect, to what others have described as a major boost to the renovation of the Basilica”. The cardinal was referring to the project he personally designed for the construction of an archaeological site open to the public and a visitor centre for pilgrims visiting the Basilica.


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