Vatican Archaeologists Unearth St. Paul’s Tomb

ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 6 — Vatican archaeologists have unearthed a sarcophagus believed to contain the remains of the Apostle Paul that had been buried beneath Rome’s second largest basilica, the Associated Press reported.

The sarcophagus, which dates back to at least 390 A.D., has been the subject of an extended excavation that began in 2002 and was completed last month, the project’s head said.

“Our objective was to bring the remains of the tomb back to light for devotional reasons, so that it could be venerated and be visible,” said Giorgio Filippi, the Vatican archaeologist who headed the project at St. Paul Outside the Walls basilica.

The interior of the sarcophagus has not yet been explored, but Filippi didn’t rule out the possibility of doing so in the future.

Moscow Patriarchate: Pope’s Turkey Trip Important

SPERO NEWS, Dec. 5 — The Patriarchate of Moscow has described the recent journey of Benedict XVI to Turkey as “important,” and has expressed hope that it will contribute to promoting sincere dialogue between the two sister Churches, reported Spero News.

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations, said: “The visit of the Pope to Turkey (Nov. 28 – Dec. 1) is indisputably important for the mutual understanding of Christians and Muslims, for the development of Turkey’s relations with Western Europe, for the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue.”

In an interview with the Russian press, Chaplin said that despite the actions of some extremists, the majority of Turkish Muslims and their spiritual leaders viewed the Pope’s visit favorably. He dwelt on the significance of the meeting between Benedict XVI and Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, “one of the few but one of the most famous and historically important Orthodox Churches.”

As for the joint declaration signed Nov. 30 between the two religious leaders, the archpriest said the document contains “many correct thoughts about the development of the dialogue and cooperation between Orthodox and Catholic Christians.” He added: “I hope they will be specified in the process of relations between the Vatican and each of the local Orthodox Churches.”

Benedict and Bartholomew to Meet Next Year?

ASIANEWS, Dec. 4 — Pope Benedict XVI and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I are examining the possibility of opening together the next round of the Joint Theological Commission to show their shared desire to pursue the path of full communion, according to AsiaNews.

According to sources from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the meeting should take place in Ravenna in the early months of 2007. The report stated that the proposal was made by Bartholomew during the Pope’s visit to Istanbul, and the Pope approved it in principle, conditional on his agenda. The Joint Commission began to meet again after a six-year hiatus.

During the three meetings between the Pope and the Patriarch in Istanbul a joint statement was signed that, while it added nothing new in terms of Catholic-Orthodox relations, expressed “joy” over the renewed dialogue and reasserted the two parties’ shared commitment to the process. Bartholomew I and Benedict XVI also stressed separately their desire to pursue the ecumenical path.