Pope visits St. Peter's tomb under the Vatican

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Associated Press

Posted on April 1, 2013 at 3:01 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 1 at 3:04 PM

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican says Pope Francis has paid a visit to the tomb of Peter, the church's first pontiff, who is buried beneath St. Peter's Basilica.

It says Francis became the first pontiff to visit the necropolis since excavations were done at the ancient site decades ago. The Vatican says the 45-minute visit was private, but officials later released a video of it.

According to a statement, Francis walked down the entire main street of the ancient city of the dead. The streets of the necropolis are similar to those of ancient Rome -- but they are flanked by tombs instead of by shops and apartments. Pagans as well as early Christians were buried there.

It was a sharp departure from how popes in past years have often spent the day after Easter. Those pontiffs would head to Castel Gandolfo in the Alban Hills, a short drive from Rome. But that retreat is currently occupied by Pope Benedict.

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APPHOTO OSS124: In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis, center, visits the necropolis where pagans and early Christians were buried under St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican and where St. Peter is believed to be buried, Monday, April 1, 2013, during what was called the first-ever visit by a pope. The basilica was built over the location where early Christians would gather in secret, at a time of persecution in ancient Rome, to pray at an unmarked tomb believed to be that of Peter, the apostle Jesus chose to lead his church. At right Bishop Vittorio Lanzani looks on. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano) (1 Apr 2013)

<<APPHOTO OSS124 (04/01/13)>>

APPHOTO OSS120: In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis, followed by Cardinal Angelo Comastri and Bishop Vittorio Lanzani, partially hidden, visits the necropolis where pagans and early Christians were buried under St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican and where St. Peter is believed to be buried, Monday, April 1, 2013, during what was called the first-ever visit by a pope. The basilica was built over the location where early Christians would gather in secret, at a time of persecution in ancient Rome, to pray at an unmarked tomb believed to be that of Peter, the apostle Jesus chose to lead his church. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano) (1 Apr 2013)

<<APPHOTO OSS120 (04/01/13)>>

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