Vatican used nighttime mission to gather relics from St. Paul’s tomb

Teak Phillips

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Vatican technicians entered the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in the dead of night, drilled a small hole in the tomb under the main altar and extracted fragments of what was inside.

The results were a closely held secret for more than two years.

Pope Benedict XVI announced June 28 that tests performed on bone fragments from the tomb demonstrate they could be the remains of the Apostle Paul, because carbon-14 tests concluded the bones belonged to a human being who lived between the first and second century.

Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, who served as archpriest of the basilica, told a press conference July 3 that the laboratory tests “evidently agree with the tradition that the tomb is of St. Paul.”

Ulderico Santamaria, director of the diagnostic laboratory for conservation and restoration at the Vatican Museums, showed reporters images of the relics that had been enlarged with electronic microscopes and dated May 12, 2007, showing a time of 1:15 a.m., an hour when the basilica would have been empty so that technicians could work freely and not be seen.

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