September 26, 2016

The Return of the Skull of the Apostle Andrew to Patras in 1964 as Reported in the New York Times

Saint Jerome wrote that the relics of Saint Andrew the Apostle were taken from Patras to Constantinople by order of the Roman Emperor Constantius II around 357 and deposited in the Church of the Holy Apostles. The skull of the Apostle Andrew was given by the Eastern Roman despot Thomas Palaiologos to Pope Pius II in 1461. It was enshrined in one of the four central piers of Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. In September 1964, Pope Paul VI, as a gesture of goodwill toward the Greek Orthodox Church, ordered that all of the relics of Saint Andrew that were in Vatican City be sent back to Patras. Cardinal Augustin Bea along with many other cardinals presented the skull to Metropolitan Constantine of Patras on 24 September 1964, and this is commemorated annually on September 26th, the day of the arrival in Patras.
The article below features the distrust of many Greeks in receiving back the skull of the Apostle Andrew from the Vatican, though such distrust has long been sidelined, and the Cathedral of the Apostle Andrew in Patras today is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites for Orthodox Christians in the world.

Pope Returns a Relic of Apostle To Greeks After Five Centuries

September 27, 1964

Patras, Greece, Sept. 26 — A relic venerated as the skull of St. Andrew the Apostle was returned today from the Vati­can to Patras in a gesture of goodwill to the Greek Orthodox Church.

It was taken from this south­ern Greek port to St Peter's Basilica in Borne 504 years ago. Its return by Pope Paul VI was marked by a striking revival of Byzantine pomp—and of the religious feuds that raged in the Middle Ages.

The ceremony was boycotted by Greece's 84‐year‐old Ortho­dox Primate, Archbishop Chry­sostomos, and scholars chal­lenged the authenticity of the relic.

Resting in a golden reliquary shaped into the features of St. Andrew wearing a crown, the relic was brought by Augustin Cardinal Bea, the 83‐year‐old German Jesuit who is president of the Vatican Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

Stops Made at Villages

The eight‐man Vatican mis­sion landed at the Araxos mili­tary airfield in a special plane and drove in procession the 30 miles to Patras, stopping at vil­lages along the road to permit peasants to venerate the relic.

Ceremonies here were stripped of all religious character. The Orthodox church has ruled it a sin for its members to join Roman Catholics in prayer since the two branches of Christianity split 11 centuries ago.

In delivering the reliquary to Metropolitan Constantine of Patras, Cardinal Bea said the return of the relic gave the Pope an occasion to express his respects to the Greek Orthodox Church.

“For centuries we have lived like strangers, where as a com­mon baptism made us all the children of God,” he said. “May this day mark the beginning of a road, which with God's help may lead us to the day when our churches can be reunited.”

25 Defy Primate

About 25 Greek bishops de­fied instructions from their Primate to stay away from the Patras ceremony.

The Church of Greece, one of the most conservative Orth­odox churches, has been resist­ing efforts to restore Christian unity.

The relic was taken to the 120‐year old Church of St. Andrew in Patras, where ves­pers were sung jointly by all.

Meanwhile, Nicholas Toma­dakis, professor of Byzantine literature at Athens University, challenged the authenticity of the relic.

“Until the end of the 10th century, no one in the Byzan­tine Empire had heard anything about any remains of St. An­drew,” he said in a letter to the conservative newspaper Kathi­merini.

“Both the head of the saint and his body, which is reputed to be at Amalfi in Italy, are fabrications of later centuries,” he added. “It is sad that the Greek Church did not ask ex­perts to establish the authen­ticity of the remains.”

Read also: The Translation of the Honorable Skull of the Apostle Andrew to Patras