In 1968 the pope, Paul VI, said that the evidence appeared to be convincing; but the basilica’s administrative office said Paul VI was referring to the tomb area, not to the bones themselves! An official said, “It is certain that this is the tomb of St. Peter. But how can one say that these bones are those of St. Peter?”xi Well, actually, one can’t; and nor can one say that it really was the tomb of Peter either. And note the similarity between the statements of Paul VI in 1968 and Benedict XVI in 2009: Paul said the evidence appeared to be convincing that Peter’s bones were beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, and Benedict said the evidence seemed to confirm that Paul’s bones were in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Neither man was able to say so with any certainty! Note also the similarity between what Vatican officials said about Peter’s bones, and about Paul’s: in neither case were they at all certain, even though their boss made a virtually definitive announcement!
It turns out, in fact, that even many Roman Catholic archaeologists, including the Jesuits who worked on the excavation, did not accept the “evidence” that Peter’s bones were discovered beneath the basilica. And Paul Poupard, a cardinal and head of the Vatican Council for Culture, wrote in a book on Rome in 1991, “Scientific examination of the human bones found under the Red Wall [in the excavation under St. Peter’s] has not revealed any relationship with the apostle Peter.”xii
But the Vatican has never let the real facts get in the way of a good propaganda piece.
So: what do the supposed “discoveries” of the remains of Peter and Paul in Rome do for the Roman Catholic religion? Answer: an immense amount.
Rome wants the world to think that God has bestowed upon it the task of ruling over the entire “Christian” world. From the very early centuries, the bishops of Rome have been telling the world that God has set them over all other churches. And the supposed “discovery” of Paul’s tomb in Rome is being used to highlight this false claim all over again, just as when it was claimed, decades ago, that Peter’s remains had been discovered beneath St. Peter’s Basilica. Vatican spokesman Lombardi affirmed that the supposed “discovery” of Paul’s remains confirms Rome’s centrality to Christianity! He said, “Rome is the centre of Christianity not because it was the capital of the ancient empire, but because in it the princes of the Apostles [Peter and Paul] suffered martyrdom and their tombs have always been looked after and venerated.” Actually, even if it was true that Peter and Paul were buried there, it would prove no such thing. All it would prove is that they died and were buried in Rome; nothing more. And as we have seen, Peter definitely was not buried there. The centrality of Rome to Christianity would have to be proved from the Word of God, not from the bones of Peter and Paul being buried there! And the Word of God teaches no such thing.
Additionally, it must be borne in mind that Roman Catholics worship at the shrines of those departed people it calls “saints”, whether they were real Christian saints, Roman Catholic heroes, or even people who never actually existed (Rome has made “saints” of all three classes). They worship before their shrines, and they worship them. Significantly, since 2007 visitors have been allowed to enter below the basilica’s altar to pray before the supposed tomb of Paul. This was permitted before the scientific analysis of the bones was ever concluded! It shows that as far as Rome is concerned, scientific proof of the remains being those of Paul is not as important as milking the faithful! There is absolutely no solid evidence that the remains are those of Paul, and yet pilgrims have been permitted to pray before the tomb as if it was a certainty that it was Paul’s remains in that sarcophagus!
But this is what Rome has always done: permitted its adherents to worship before all kinds of relics, regardless of whether they were even authentic or not (and never mind the fact that such a practice is utterly heathen and in no way scriptural, for worship must be directed to God alone, through Christ). What kind of a religion is this that permits its followers to venerate and pray before bone fragments? That claims that relics such as these are necessary to be placed under altars in its religious buildings? Answer: a heathen religion, masquerading as “Christian”.