The first ever scientific test on bone fragments that are believed to be the remains of the Apostle Paul "seems to confirm" that they do indeed belong to the Roman Catholic saint, Pope Benedict XVI said.
Benedict said archaeologists recently unearthed and opened the white marble sarcophagus located under the Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls in Rome, which for some 2,000 years has been believed by the faithful to be the tomb of St Paul, The Washington Post cites an Associated Press report saying.
Benedict said scientists had conducted carbon dating tests on bone fragments found inside the sarcophagus and confirmed that they date from the first or second century.
"This seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that they are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul," Benedict said, announcing the findings at a service in the basilica to mark the end of the Vatican's Pauline year, in honour of the apostle.
St Paul, also known as the apostle of the Gentiles, was beheaded in Rome in the 1st century during the persecution of early Christians by Roman emperors. Popular belief holds that bone fragments from his head are in another Rome basilica, St John Lateran, with his other remains inside the sarcophagus, the report adds.
The pope said when archaeologists opened the sarcophagus, they discovered alongside the bone fragments some grains of incense, a "precious" piece of purple linen with gold sequins and a blue fabric with linen filaments.
Vatican archaeologists began excavating the 8 foot long tomb of St Paul, which dates from at least A.D. 390 and was buried under the basilica's main altar, in 2002.
Pope: Scientific analysis done on St. Paul's bones (Washington Post)
Analysis says bones are Saint Paul's, says Pope Benedict (The Australian)