VATICAN CITY The Vatican put what are believed to be the remains of Saint Peter, the first pope, on public display for the first time on Sunday outside the vast basilica which carries his name.
Pope Francis made a shallow bow and waved incense over the carved bronze casket containing the tiny bone fragments, before a Mass in St. Peter's Square to mark the end of the Vatican's year-long celebration of the Christian faith.
The relics, which are normally kept in the chapel of the papal apartment in the Vatican, were announced as probably belonging to Peter by Pope Paul VI in 1968, though many scholars have disputed the claim.
After the outdoor Mass, attended by around 1,200 top cardinals, patriarchs and archbishops from around the world, Francis held the casket for a few moments with his head bowed and eyes closed, apparently in prayer.
Peter, one of Jesus's twelve apostles, is believed to have been crucified in Rome under the rule of the Emperor Nero.