BASIC R.C. BELIEF
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).
From THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, Gibbon, p. 66. "The
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."
POST VATICAN II
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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