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Antonio Ferrua, 102; Archeologist Credited as Finding St. Peter's Tomb

May 29, 2003|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Antonio Ferrua, 102, a noted Jesuit archeologist who headed the excavation that uncovered what the Vatican declared to be the tomb and bones of St. Peter, the first pope, died Sunday in Rome, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano reported.

Excavation in the grottoes under St. Peter's Basilica, ordered by Pope Pius XII, uncovered an ancient necropolis, and a tomb found at the site was declared to be that of St. Peter.

Years later, Pope Paul VI declared that bones of an elderly man found at the site were those of Peter.

The Vatican announcement was met with some skepticism.

The Italian Catholic newspaper L'Avvenire, in an article written when Ferrua turned 100, said the Jesuit repeatedly said he was not convinced they were the saint's bones.

L'Avvenire described Ferrua as a "scholar of great rigor, who has never been touched by any ideological interference."

Ferrua was also considered a leading scholar in epigraphy, the study of ancient Christian inscriptions.

Born in Italy's northern Piedmont region, Ferrua joined the Jesuits in 1918.

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