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Display of purported bones of St. Peter spotlights debate over whether relics are really his

The Vatican's decision to publicly exhibit the purported relics of the Apostle Peter for the first time this weekend has spotlighted the intense scientific debate over whether the bones actually belong to the first bishop of Rome.

No pope has ever definitively declared the bones to be Peter's, though Pope Paul VI in 1968 said fragments found in the necropolis under St. Peter's Basilica were "identified in a way that we can consider convincing." Some Vatican archaeologists disagreed, and debate continues today much as it has over the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin.

A senior Vatican official, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, acknowledged the debate Monday but suggested it almost doesn't matter if scientists determine the bones aren't Peter's since Christians have venerated them for two millennia and will continue to.