Tag Archives: Pope Paul VI

Bones, dem bones, dem dry bones ….. Now hear the word of The Lord

from the Guardian

Associated Press in Vatican City
theguardian.com, Sunday 24 November 2013

The Vatican has publicly unveiled bone fragments purportedly belonging to Saint Peter, reviving the scientific debate and tantalising mystery over whether the relics found in a shoe box truly belong to the first pope.

The nine pieces of bone sat nestled like rings in a jewel box inside a bronze display case on the side of the altar during a mass commemorating the end of the Vatican’s year-long celebration of the Christian faith. It was the first time they had ever been exhibited in public.

Pope Francis prayed before the fragments at the start of Sunday’s service and clutched the case in his arms for several minutes after his homily.

No pope has ever definitively declared the fragments to belong to the apostle Peter, but Pope Paul VI in 1968 said fragments found in the necropolis under St Peter’s Basilica were “identified in a way that we can consider convincing”.

Some archaeologists dispute the finding.

The relics were discovered during excavations begun under St Peter’s Basilica in the years following the death in 1939 of Pope Pius XI, who had asked to be buried in the grottoes where dozens of popes are buried, according to the 2012 book by veteran Vatican correspondent Bruno Bartoloni, The Ears of the Vatican.

During the excavations, archaeologists discovered a funerary monument with a casket built in honour of Peter and an engraving in Greek that read “Petros eni”, or “Peter is here”.

The scholar of Greek antiquities Margherita Guarducci, who had deciphered the engraving, continued to investigate and learned that one of the basilica workers had been given the remains found inside the casket and stored them in a shoe box kept in a cupboard. She reported her findings to Paul VI, who later proclaimed there was a convincing argument that the bones belonged to Peter.

Leading Vatican Jesuits and other archaeologists strongly denied the claim, but had little recourse.

“No pope had ever permitted an exhaustive study, partly because a 1,000-year-old curse attested by secret and apocalyptic documents, threatened anyone who disturbed the peace of Peter’s tomb with the worst possible misfortune,” Bartoloni wrote.

The Vatican newspaper, l’Osservatore Romano, published excerpts of the book last year, giving his account a degree of official sanction.

In 1971, Paul VI was given an urn containing the relics, which were kept inside the private papal chapel inside the apostolic palace and exhibited for the pope’s private veneration every 29 June, for the feast of saints Peter and Paul. Sunday marked the first time they were shown in public.

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Franciszek Gajowniczek

Most of us know the story of a remarkable man whose name was Maximilian Kolbe

He was a Polish Roman Catholic priest, who was imprisoned for his faith in Auschwitz

There he would share his meagre rations of food with those who were hungry; and would encourage the other prisoners to forgive their persecutors and overcome evil with good.

One day a man in Kolbe’s block escaped from the camp and so all of the men from that block were brought out into the hot sun and made to stand there all day – with no food or drink.

At the end of the day, the man who had escaped was still missing.

So the Nazi commandant told the assembled prisoners that ten men would be arbitrarily selected to die in the starvation cell – in place of the one that had escaped.

One of the men selected was a Polish sergeant, Franciszek Gajowniczek, imprisoned in Auschwitz. for aiding the Jewish resistance in Poland.

He begged to be spared because he was worried that his family would not be able to survive without him.

As he was pleading with the commandant, Maximilian Kolbe silently stepped forward and said that he would like to take the man’s place to allow the sergeant to be able to care for his wife and children.

And amazingly this exchange was allowed:  The sergeant returned to his place in the ranks and Kolbe took his place in the starvation bunker.

During the next two weeks the prisoners were not given any food or water   Every day the guards came and removed dead bodies from the bunker. However instead of being greeted with the usual sounds of screaming and cursing, all they heard was Kolbe and the others singing hymns and praying.

One after the other died, until only four were left including Maximilian.  The authorities felt that death by starvation was taking too long for the remaining four and the cell was needed for new victims.

Each prisoner in turn was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid (phenol) in the vein of his left arm.  Maximilian, with a prayer on his lips gave his arm to his executioner.  Maximilian Kolbe was 47 years old when he was executed on August 14, 1941

What happened to the Polish Sergeant Franciszek Gajowniczek?

Well, he was released from Auschwitz after spending almost five and a half years in the camp.

When Pope Paul VI beatified Maximilian Kolbe in 1971, Gajowniczek  was a guest of the Pope.

In 1972, over 150,000 people made a pilgrimage to Auschwitz to honour the anniversary of Maximilian’s beatification. One of the first to speak was Gajowniczek who declared “I want to express my thanks, for the gift of life.”

He was again a guest of the Pope when Maximilian Kolbe was canonized on October 10, 1982.

He never forgot Father Kolbe and spent the five decades from his time at Auschwitz until his own death in March 1995 at the age of 95 honouring the man who died on his behalf.

Just before he died he said that  “as long as he . . . has breath in his lungs, he would consider it his duty to tell people about the heroic act of love by Maximilian Kolbe.”

The ability to remember is a wonderful gift that God has given to us. 

The Bible is a book of Memories too. 

There we can recall God’s goodness to his people starting with the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Old Testament.

There we remember – in the New Testament – the story of God sending his own Son Jesus into the world to bring mankind back into a right relationship with God – culminating with the ultimate sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf on the Cross

But the Bible is more than just a book of memories. In it we are reminded how God wants us to live

Jesus gave us two great rules to govern life in our society:  the first was this: to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind” The second was to “Love your neighbour as yourself” 

We remember the past with thanksgiving; we live in the present in joy; we look to the future in hope


Scripture reference: John 15 verses 9-17


Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic