John The Baptist Relics Moved to Renovated Church in Bulgaria's Sozopol
The relics, unearthed last summer off Sozopol on Bulgaria's southern coast and purported to be St. John the Baptist, will be moved to SS Cyril and Methodius church in Sozopol.
The relics are expected to arrive in the renovated church on June 25 and will be welcomed solemnly by the clergy, citizens and politicians, including Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
The remains believed to be John the Baptist, including a skull fragment and a tooth, were uncovered at the end of July last year 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.
When Bulgarian archaeologists declared they had found relics of John the Baptist, one of the most significant early Christian saints, their discovery became the subject of huge interest, much skepticism and even scam allegations.
According to excavation leader Professor Kazimir Popkonstantinov the Greek inscription on the tiny sandstone box, reading "God, save your servant Thomas. To St John. June 24", the date, celebrated by Christians as John the Baptist's nativity, is a very strong proof that the relics of John the Baptist are genuine, the key clue to their origin.
But the discovery on Sveti Ivan and the claims about the box-office draw of Sozopol as a center of religious tourism have been greeted with strong skepticism by some within Bulgaria's archaeological community.
While Popkonstantinov concedes that his case for the relics mixed fact with hypothesis, he enjoys the support of those experts, who say spirituality always rubs up against archaeology.
Bulgarian government plans to benefit from the box-office potential of the discovery, going as far as to say that Sozopol will be the new Jerusalem.
Officials of the recession-hit country believe that the purported relics will give a big boost to tourism, drawing believers from neighboring Orthodox Christian countries to this nearby resort town. They are looking at the relics to promote religious tourism, hoping for an economic salvation and miracle in polls.
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