The remains of holy persons (parts of their bodies or possessions),

entitled to veneration. Every Roman Catholic altar contains two relics of

martyred saints. Traditional commentators usually held that relics can be

miraculously multiplied, i.e., there could be several heads of a particular


Bodily relics of Mary were venerated until about the 11th century, when

talk of her Assumption crowded out any thought of her leaving bodily relics


Jesus' Crown of Thorns is preserved as a relic in a Roman Catholic

Church in Paris, France (EXTERNALS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, Msgr.

O'Sullivan, p. 223).



satisfactory experience that the relics of saints were more valuable than

gold or precious stones stimulated the clergy to multiply the relics of the

church. Without much regard for the truth or probability they invented

names for skeletons and actions for names."

From THE VATICAN PAPERS by Nino Lo Bello. "Even though the Vatican keeps

very good records of its relics everywhere in the world, it is not possible

to count or even guess how many there are, in view of the fact that there

are nearly 2000 saints in the Catholic calendar. The Vatican quickly

destroyed the relics of one saint, not long ago, when Catholic

archaeologists discovered that her ribs, unearthed over 200 years ago in a

catacomb and preserved in the Vatican since then, were the bones of a large


"Inasmuch as there are, literally, hundreds of thorns taken from

Christ's crown, the multiplicity of such relics everywhere remains for the

Vatican a difficult question. What do you do when you know that there are

three heads of Saint John the Baptist - one in Saint Mark's in Venice,

another in Damascus and a third in Amiens, France - 28 thumbs and fingers

belonging to Saint Dominic, two bodies of Saint Sylvester (one in Rome, the

other near Modena), the body of Saint Luke in Venice and in Padua and more

than 150 nails from the True Cross?

"Many of the listings in the Vatican relics library, however, are single

items for which some kind of authentication is provided in the files. These

include, for example, the right arm and head of Saint John, the head of

Saint Catherine of Sienna, the full bodies of Saint Lucia, Saint Maximus,

Saint Urio, Saint Felicity the Virgin and Saint Julian. Saint Julian

himself brought a huge number of relics from Jerusalem, including a part of

Saint Matthew's leg, a tooth from Saint Mark the Evangelist, the skull of

Saint James the Less, the Holy Sponge which was offered to Christ's lips,

some of the Virgin Mary;'s hair, a jar full of earth from Golgotha (soaked

with the blood of Christ), and the jawbone of Saint Anthony, to mention

some of the eminent ones. The jawbone lies in a bejewelled case in the

Basilica of Saint Anthony, and what invariably astonished visitors from

abroad is how Italian worshippers behave in its presence: many people push

and shove to kiss the case, rub their babies against it, caress it with

their hands and rub lottery tickets over it."


The Roman Catholic Church admits there have been abuses concerning relics,

and is trying to stamp these out. Most modern theologians don't accept

miraculous multiplication of relics and say where two or more exist, only

one is genuine (but as they are not certain which one is genuine,

veneration may be paid to each of them).

Relics in altars now have to be of saints, not martyrs.

Scriptures used are II Kings 2:8-14; Matthew 9:20-21; Acts 5:15-16;


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