Presser on St. Paul’s Tomb: a relic for the Church of Athens

Along with the news (posted here) that the Patriarchal Basilicas are now to be called "Papal", there was an interesting bit of news that popped out.

His Eminence Card. Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, Archpriest of the Basilica, explained that some years ago the Orthodox Archbishop of Athens had requested from the Pope an authentic relic of the body of St. Paul. 

Since the tomb had not ever been opened and there was not plan to open it, John Paul II offered to give two links of the chain which tradition says bound the Apostle.  A reliquary was prepared but the visit of the Orthodox Archbishop didn’t take place. 

It was announced that next Thursday the Archbishop of Athens will come to Rome.  A ceremony will take place during which he will be given these two links of the chain that bound St. Paul.

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  1. Augustine says:

    If St. Malachy’s right – and I think he is – Benedict is “the glory of the olive.” Does this mean he will be the one to reunite the East?

  2. Ioannes says:

    With the recent discovery of the sarcophagus of St. Paul, is there some chance that it may be opened to give the orthodox a more significant relic?

  3. In 1139 St. Malachy was indeed in Rome conducting business for the Church in Ireland. Whether he had a vision of every pope from the yet-to-be-elected Celestine II to the very last pope is still vigorously debated.
    Malachy’s prophecies are extremely brief–just a short Latin phrase or motto for each pontiff. At first glance these taglines seem impossible to interpret. What is anyone to make of “De sutore osseo” (Of the cobbler of Ossa), or “Aquila rapax” (The rapacious eagle)?
    Yet scholars who have compared the prophecies with the lives of each pope from 1143 to 1590 have found that the Latin phrases fit perfectly, referring either to the birthplace, life, or the career path of each pontiff. For example, “De rure albo” (From a white country) refers to Adrian IV (1154-59), an Englishman: the ancient name for England is Albion; Nicholas was born near St. Albans; and before his election to the papacy he was cardinal bishop of Albano. Benedict XI (1303-04), “Concionator patereus,” (The orator from Patara), was born in Patara and joined the Dominicans–the Order of Preachers. “Piscator minorita,” (The Minorite fisherman) Sixtus IV (1471-84), was a member of the Friars Minor, or Franciscans, and was the son of a fisherman.
    After 1590, however, things get tricky. Many of the Latin phrases require some strenuous massaging to make them fit the popes. “Pastor et nauta” (Shepherd and mariner) for John XXIII is interpreted this way: as Patriarch of Venice he was a pastor, but he was also a mariner since he traveled around his city by gondola. “Gloria olivae” (Glory of the olives) is said to fit Benedict XVI because there is a branch of the Benedictine order known as the Olivetans.
    And there are instances when the prophecy is just plain wrong. “De medietate lunae” (Of the half moon) for John Paul I is off the mark because he did not reign for only two weeks–a half moon–but for a full month. As “Pastor Angelicus” (The angelic shepherd), Pius XII was supposed to usher in a golden age for the Church and the world–clearly not the case since World War II and the expansion of Communism around the globe dominated his papacy.
    What accounts for the discrepancy? In a word, forgery. The first mention of the Prophecies of St. Malachy appears in 1595–more than 400 years after the saint is supposed to have had his vision. There is no mention of the prophecies in any document before that. Not even St. Malachy’s closest friend and first biographer, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, refers to them.
    The Jesuit antiquarian, Claude-Francois Menestrier (1631-1705), believed the forgery was concocted before the papal conclave of 1590 to promote the candidacy of Cardinal Simoncelli, the favorite son of the town of Orvieto. The prophetic tagline for Pope Simoncelli is “Ex antiquitate urbis” (From the ancient city); Orvieto’s Latin name, Urbs Vetus, means old city. Apparently the other cardinals in the conclave were not convinced that Simoncelli was predestined for the papacy, because they elected someone else.
    The forger, who enjoyed the benefit of hindsight, was able to come up with Latin mottoes that fit every pope up to 1590. Naturally, he had no clue who would come afterward, which explains why proponents of St. Malachy’s prophecies often must tie themselves in knots to make the tagline fit the pope.

  4. Ioannes: They are still studying the whole situation of the tomb and there is not any plan at this time to open the tomb.

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