A relic of Pope St Clement I has been found in a bin in London by a waste disposal company.
Workmen discovered the bone fragment – in a red and gold wax-sealed case – during a routine collection last year.
Enviro Waste is now appealing to members of the public to suggest a new home for the relic. “You can imagine our amazement when we realised our clearance teams had found bone belonging to a Pope,” said James Rubin, the company’s owner. “It’s not something you expect to see, even in our line of work.”
“We know this is an important piece of history and are keen to find the most appropriate place for its final resting place, which is why we’re asking for help from members of the public.”
There has been growing concern in recent decades over the treatment of sacred relics. Canon law states that it is “absolutely forbidden” to sell them, but many were moved or discarded when churches were reorganised during the changes after the Second Vatican Council.
Georges Kazan, a researcher at the University of Turku in Finland, told MailOnline: “It could have been stolen, it could belong to someone and been accidentally thrown out.
“If it’s authentic, it’s not the kind of thing you throw away. It looks like a nice piece, with quite a decent sized bit of bone.”
According to tradition, Clement reigned as Pope from AD 88 to 99. He is one of the ‘Apostolic Fathers’ – theologians who personally knew some of the Twelve Apostles.
Members of the public can submit ideas for a new home for the relic on an online form.