The Vatican today introduced the world to what they believe are the bones of St. Peter, the Apostle, during an elaborate ceremony concluding a year packed with change for the church.
Depending on what you believe, Saint Peter is the guy you meet when you ascend to heaven, or at least to the pearly gates, and he decides whether you move into a penthouse suite in the sky or spend the afterlife suffering. But the Vatican decided recently that we should all get better acquainted with the first Bishop of Rome before that awkward moment.
Pope Francis, who was appointed this year after the first papal resignation in centuries, unveiled what most of the Christian church believes are Peter's only existing bones during the last mass of the year. That little black box? That's him.
For some perspective, Francis is the 266th Bishop of Rome. So it's been a long time since Peter's seen the light of day. This is the first time his bones, only recently uncovered, relatively speaking, have been displayed for the public.
As the Associated Press explains, using information from The Ears of the Vatican, a 2012 book by veteran Vatican reporter Bruno Bartoloni, the church doesn't know definitively whether these are Peter's bones. In 1939, workers discovered a casket under St. Peter's Basilica while excavating the grottoes, where Pop Pius XI, who died that year, asked to be buried. The bones inside are believed to be Peter's because the casket had "Peter Is Here," engraved in Greek. Many top church officials deny any connection between the bones and Peter, mostly because of a 1,000-year-old curse:
"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.
In 1968, Pope Paul VI said the bones were "identified in a way that we can consider convincing."
Before, the bones were kept inside the papal apartment. Besides dying or getting invited over to a papal dinner party, no one else could see Peter.