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St Paul's tomb discovered
Monday, December 11th

An Italian archeologist has uncovered the tomb of St. Paul, underneath the altar of the Roman basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls.

Archeologist Giorgio Filippi confirmed that his team has completed excavations around the altar of the ancient basilica, discovering the sarcophagus located there.

St. Paul-outside-the-Walls was built in 390, on the site of St. Paul's tomb. The sarcophagus was visible until the 19th century, when the basilica was destroyed by fire and rebuilt, with the new altar on top of the site where the old crypt was located. In 2002, the Vatican authorised an archeological dig to recover the tomb of St. Paul and make it available to the public for veneration.

Today (11th Dec), a news conference is being held at the Vatican to discuss the renovations at the basilica. The archeologist Filippi will brief reporters, along with Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, the archpriest of the basilica.

In 2003 archeologists announced that a sarcophagus possibly containing the remains of St. Paul was found directly behind a marble plaque with the inscription, 'Apostle Paul, martyr,' below the main altar at the Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls in Rome.

Giorgio Filippi, an archeologist who works for the Vatican Museums and who led the excavation team, told the Italian daily Avvenire, 'We have discovered a sarcophagus or container of relics. We know that in 390, that is, when the emperors Theodosius, Valentino II and Arcadius expanded the Basilica, the remains were known to be those of St. Paul.'

The sarcophagus has a small hole through which a camera could be inserted, but for the moment Filippi considers the discovery to be 'sufficient.'

The discovery was made by a team of experts from the Vatican Museums in response to a request from the administrator of St. Paul's Basilica, Archbishop Francesco Gioia.

During the Jubilee Year 2000, the archbishop noticed that thousands of pilgrims were inquiring about the location of St. Paul's tomb, and he decided to make the formal request for excavations to begin.

The sarcophagus was discovered during excavations which took place between June of 2002 and May of 2003.

When the remains of St. Peter were discovered in 1941, it took the Church 35 years to determine they were indeed those of the first Pope. It is likely a similar amount of time will be needed to determine if the remains found at St. Paul's Basilica are in fact those of the 'Apostle to the Gentiles.'