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Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2494

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Relic of martyred pope donated to Westminster Cathedral after recovery by waste disposal company


A relic of the bones of an early pope has been given to Westminster Cathedral after it was discovered by a waste disposal company in London.

The three bones of Pope St Clement I, encased in a small reliquary, had been stolen from a car in Central London but were found by James Rubin, the boss of Enviro Waste, in his warehouse.

Mr Rubin (pictured above) decided to give the relic to Westminster Cathedral after considering nearly 200 requests for it.

“This is probably the most remarkable story coming out of the waste industry right now,” he said.

“We don’t know exactly where it came from because we just ended up with this in our warehouse and it was a strange one because at lunchtime, I tend to walk around the industrial estate and go into the warehouse where we have a range of furniture and electronic waste, and I happened to see that on the side on someone’s desk and I thought ‘that’s a bit strange, that doesn’t really belong in the hands of a waste company.”

The relic sits on red silk damask within a small oval metal reliquary above the words “Ex Oss San Clementis PM”.

Mr Rubin said he discovered “Ex Oss” meant “ex ossibus”, or “from the bones of”, only when he looked it up on Google, the internet search engine.

At that point he knew he had made an interesting discovery and decided to make it public in the hope that he might obtain more information.

Among those who contacted him was the original owner who agreed that it would be a good idea to return the relic to the Catholic Church.

Pope St Clement is regarded as an “apostolic father” because he personally knew some of the 12 Apostles and is said to have been ordained a bishop at the hands of St Peter.

He was the third successor of St Peter and he was martyred in the first century under Emperor Trajan by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea. He has since been venerated as the patron saint of mariners.

Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff, who accepted the relic on behalf of the cathedral, said the saint was a “very important figure in the life of the early Church”, and author of an extant letter to the Church in Corinth.

Archbishop Stack (pictured) said that the relics of St Clement were brought to Rome in the 9th century by Ss Cyril and Methodius and were afterwards entombed in the Basilica of St Clemente on the Coelian.

The relic will go on display in the Treasures of Westminster Cathedral exhibition and may also be lent exhibitions elsewhere.

Sophie Andreae (pictured), the vice chair of the Patrimony Committee of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said: “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.”

“We were in touch very quickly with James and his company to say that this was of extreme importance from the Catholic perspective and that we would like to find an appropriate home for it,” she added.

“For Catholics relics do have very great importance and significance and this is of course a relic of St Clement the third Pope, ordained by St Peter himself in Rome, so it is a very, very remarkable artefact.’”

Dr Tessa Murdoch, Deputy Keeper of Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics and Glass at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, said the relic represented an “exciting discovery” and a “remarkable find”.

Dr Murdoch said the reliquary dated from the 17th century and the seal on the reverse, she said, bore the coat of arms of an otherwise unidentified cardinal who said she suspected was “responsible for authorising the production of smaller relics from a principal bone of the saint” and distributing them.

“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,” she added.


Photos courtesy of Mazur/