Pope Francis said giving fragments of St. Peter’s bones to the head of the church founded by Peter’s brother, St. Andrew, was meant to be a reminder and encouragement of the journey toward Christian unity.
Devotees believe that the almost transparent cloth was one of the burial shrouds that covered the face of Jesus in the tomb and that the image was formed miraculously at the moment of the resurrection.
Pope Francis and many people attending the canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square were alive when St. Paul VI and St. Oscar Romero were alive, but the new saints’ relics and those of five other people canonized Oct. 14 still were present at the Mass as reminders that the saints were flesh-and-blood people who lived holy lives.
The veneration of relics is a fundamentally biblical practice; it is not some sort of innovation in the centuries after Christ. On the contrary, as Scripture reveals, the veneration of relics was widely practiced, in one form or another, by ancient Jews as well.