Pope Francis displays St Peter's bones

Relics thought to be St Peter's shown in public for first time

Bones reputed to belong to St Peter were displayed in public for the first time on 24 November, during a Mass in St Peter's Square to mark the end of the Vatican's Year of Faith.

At the end of his homily Pope Francis cradled the bronze reliquary containing eight small bone fragments believed by the Vatican to be the bones of the Apostle Peter and the first bishop of Rome.

In 1939 archaeologists discovered the bones buried in the necropolis under St Peter's, along with a Greek engraving which read "Petros eni" or "Peter is here".

In 1968 Pope Paul VI announced that the bones probably belonged to St Peter, saying they were “identified in a way that we can consider convincing”, although many scholars continue to dispute the claim.

Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said that the public display of the bones was "a way to feel spiritually close to the story of the tomb and of the apostle. There is a serious possibility they are St Peter's bones, but we don't go beyond that".