The relic of Pope St Clement I has been returned to the Catholic Church after it was discovered in a waste disposal warehouse in East London.
As previously reported in The Universe, waste disposal company Enviro Waste launched an appeal earlier this year to help find a final resting place for the bone of the saint, whose feast day takes place on 23rd November.
James Rubin, the owner of Enviro Waste, found the relic on one of his lunchtime walkabouts around the warehouse and after receiving 150-200 responses to the appeal, he said it was obvious what needed to be done.
“It just stood out from the e-mails that we needed to return it back to Westminster Cathedral,” he said.
The relic will go on display in the Treasures of Westminster Cathedral exhibition.
Mr Rubin admitted that the discovery is “probably the most remarkable story coming out of the waste industry right now”.
“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’,” he said.
The Archbishop of Cardiff, George Stack, Chair of the Patrimony Committee, pointed out the importance of St Celement in the life of the early Church.
“Pope from the year 90 to the year 101, Pope St Clement was arrested if you like by the Emperor Trajan because he was too successful in preaching the Christian Gospel and Trajan decided ‘get this man out of Rome and put him into exile in a very very distant part of the Empire’ we would call it Ukraine,” he said.
“So Clement was exiled to the Ukraine and eventually he was martyred there by drowning, and one of the symbols of Pope St Clement is he is portrayed with an anchor because he had an anchor weighed around his neck.”
The archbishop added that many people ate intrigued by relics.
“There is a tremendous living connection with our forefathers and mothers, going back to the days of St Clement, the Mass used to be celebrated on the tombs of those who have given their lives for the faith. So that constant tradition, a living tradition of holding our forebears in veneration as an inspiration to people today as we try to follow, not the path of martyrdom necessarily, but certainly the witness that they gave,” he said.
Sophie Andreae, Vice Chair of the Patrimony Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, is among those who expressed intrigue at this particular relic, describing it as “a very, very remarkable artefact”.
“We (the patrimony committee) 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. 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.”
Meanwhile, Dr Tessa Murdoch, Deputy Keeper of Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics and Glass, Victoria & Albert Museum, explained why the relic is believed to be authentic.
“The label hand written in capital letters ‘EX OSS S.CLEMENTIS P.M.’ probably standing for proto martyr. The dome of the reliquary is held in place by a red thread which is crossed at the back and is sealed with a seal that can be identified either as that of a cardinal or an archbishop. As I speak now with the most recent intelligence Catholic historians, it is a question of how many tassels are attached to the hat,” she said.
“The seal is of course in red wax and so the hat appears to be red, if it was an archbishops hat, it would be green. There are fifteen tassels, the coat of arms of a cardinal has fifteen tassels so that indicates that the coat of arms once identified would help us to date the piece, which we believe is probably as early as the seventeenth century and the cardinal represented was responsible for authorising the production of smaller relics from a principle bone of the saint and distrusting the relics,” she continued.
“So we don’t know where this was first received but one suggestion is the fact that the Basilica San Clemente in Rome is the home of the Irish province of the Dominicans and so there may be an Irish connection.”
The relic is the personal belonging of someone who wishes to remain anonymous. It appears that it was one of a number of items stolen from a car in Central London and it is being donated to the Treasures of Westminster Cathedral exhibition.
Picture: James Rubin, owner of Enviro Waste, presents the relic of Pope St Clement I to the Archbishop of Cardiff, George Stack, at the Lady Chapel of Westminster Cathedral on 19th June 2018. (Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk).