Back in 2006, MSNBC published a piece about the excavation of St. Paul’s tomb beneath the homonymous basilica in Rome:
Vatican archaeologists have unearthed a sarcophagus believed to contain the remains of the Apostle Paul, buried beneath Rome’s second-largest basilica.
The sarcophagus, which dates at least as far back as A.D. 390, has been the subject of an extended excavation that began in 2002 and was completed last month, the project’s head said this week.
So why is the pope chiming in only now about the veracity of these “findings?” Because today is a big holiday here in the Eternal City. It’s St. Peter & Paul’s Day, the city’s Catholic patriarchs, on the liturgical calendar.
Listen to the pope’s “scientific proof” that the remains are actually Paul’s:
…human bone fragments going back to the first or second century, red incense powder and linen cloth. “This–Pope Benedict XVI declared–seems to confirm the unanimous and unopposed tradition the what we have here are the remains of the apostle Paul.”
So of all the human folk living in Rome in the first few centuries CE, the presence of incense and linen absolutely and incontrovertibly indicates that these are the bones of Saul of Tarsus, or Paul the Apostle? How did they narrow it down? Oh, it’s because they have always maintained that this was the case, which is usually how the Vatican ratifies its miracles. Outrageous, unfounded claims about history and the nature of the universe, fake skepticism and the dispatching of Vatican “officials”, then unopposable “proof” of the miracle or relic in question. Then, alas, a sanctuary and the opening of a tchotchke shop selling plastic replicas of holy relics.
The great irony here is that the Vatican feels the need to back up its claims with science. Otherwise, they realize very few people would be stupid enough to fall for this mishaguss. After all, we aren’t living in the Middle Ages any longer.