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Relic of early pope returned

LONDON (CNS): Three fragments of a bone said to belong to Pope St. Clement I, the 1st century martyr who was ordained a bishop by St. Peter, were presented to London’s Westminster Cathedral on June 19 by James Rubin, the owner of Enviro Waste. 
The relics had previously been stolen from a car and were recovered by the waste disposal company. Rubin said he discovered the relic in his warehouse during an office cleanup earlier this year.
“We had a range of furniture and electrical waste and I happened to see it (the relic) on the side of someone’s desk. I thought it was a bit strange, that it didn’t really belong in the hands of a waste company, but I didn’t know what it was at the time,” he told a news conference in the cathedral.
The relic sits on red silk damask within a small oval metal reliquary above the words Ex Oss S. Clementis PM.
Rubin said he discovered through Google that Ex Oss meant ex ossibus, Latin for from the bones of,  and realised he had made an interesting discovery and made it public, in the hope that he might obtain more information.
He recounted that almost 200 people, including Catholic Church representatives, contacted him asking to be given the relic, and he chose to present it to the cathedral.
The relic’s original owner, who has decided to remain anonymous, told Rubin it was among items stolen from a car and agreed that it should be given to the church.
Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff, Wales, who accepted the relic on behalf of the cathedral, told the news conference that St. Clement, the third successor of St. Peter and the first Apostolic Father, was a “very important figure in the life of the early Church” and the author of a letter to the Church in Corinth that still exists.
The saint was a persuasive preacher who was exiled by the Roman emperor, Trajan, to Crimea, where he was martyred by being tied to an anchor and drowned. Since then, he has been venerated as the patron of mariners, the archbishop said.
“The relics of St. Clement were taken to Rome in the 9th century by Ss. Cyril and Methodius and were entombed in the Basilica of St. Clemente on the Coelian,” he said.
The relic represents an “exciting discovery” and a “remarkable find,” Tessa Murdoch, of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, said.
The reliquary dates from the 17th century and the seal on the reverse bears the coat of arms of an otherwise unidentified cardinal who was probably “responsible for authorising the production of smaller relics from a principal bone of the saint” and distributing them, she told the news conference.
“We don’t know where this was first received, but one guess was the basilica is the home of the Irish province of the Dominicans, so there may be an Irish connection,” Murdoch said.
Sophie Andreae, vice chairperson of the patrimony committee of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said the relic would go on public display at Westminster Cathedral and may be loaned to exhibitions in other places.
“It is early days, but we are very keen that it should be something that should be seen by the public, but its main home will be here,” she said.

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