Bulgaria FinMin: John the Baptist Relics Genuine, Vatican Says SoArchaeology | August 22, 2010, Sunday // 11:40| views
The remains, purported to be John the Baptist, including a skull fragment and a tooth, were uncovered last month during the excavation of a fourth-century monastery on St. Ivan Island, off Bulgaria's Black Sea coast. Photo courtesy by K. Popkonstantinov
Bulgaria’s finance minister has expressed confidence the relics, recently unearthed near the coastal town of Sozopol and purported to be John the Baptist, are authentic, apparently looking to the discovery for salvation of a financial sort.
“As far as I know an expert from the Vatican has confirmed as early as last week that the relics are authentic. This is important for us as it is only experts who can verify their authenticity. I respect the opinion of the Vatican because I believe they are very well acquitted with these topics,” Minister Simeon Djankov said in an interview for Darik radio.
The center-right government, which swept the elections in July last year but has recently seen its approval ratings fall in the recession-scarred country, allocated additional BGN 900 000 for archaeological excavations despite planned austerity measures.
“Bulgaria can and should develop cultural-historical tourism, which will make business along the Black Sea coast more profitable and bring benefits for the whole country. I take the allocation of this albeit small sum as an investment in the country’s economy,” Djankov said.
The comment comes shortly after The Wall Street Journal cited Michael Hesemann, a religious historian who helps the Vatican date relics, as saying the bone fragments "appear to be authentic”.
For its part, the Roman Catholic church says the matter requires more study. The Vatican's Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology said tests to gauge the age of the bones and other factors would have to be weighed before it could judge their provenance.
The remains, including a skull fragment and a tooth, were uncovered last month during the excavation of a fourth-century monastery on St. Ivan Island, off Bulgaria's Black Sea coast. They were in a sealed reliquary buried next to a tiny urn inscribed with St. John's name and his birth date.
According to excavation leader Professor Kazimir Popkonstantinov the Greek inscription on the tiny sandstone box is a very strong proof that the relics of John the Baptist are genuine, the key clue to their origin.
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