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3.16 What are relics?

Traditions and devotions

A relic is a tangible reminder of a saint. Relics are often pieces of the clothing or body of a saint. This is not as strange as it might seem: just think of people who keep a piece of jewellery, a lock of hair, or even the ashes of a loved one who died.

The fact that we can be close to, and even touch, a relic of a saint can help us in our faith. Just like the saints, we can become truly and completely happy when we always try to remain close to God and love our neighbour.

> Read more in the book

Relics are tangible reminders of the saints that help us to think of them & to ask for their prayers.

The Wisdom of the Church

What forms of popular piety accompany the sacramental life of the Church?

The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in the various forms of piety which accompany the sacramental life of the Church such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross and the rosary. The Church sheds the light of faith upon and fosters authentic forms of popular piety. [CCCC 353]

Is it permissible to venerate relics?

The veneration of relics is a natural human need, a way of showing respect and reverence to the persons who are venerated. Relics of saints are properly venerated when the faithful praise God’s work in people who have devoted themselves completely to God. [Youcat 275]

This is what the Popes say

John Damascene [spoke of] the veneration of the relics of Saints, on the basis of the conviction that the Christian Saints, having become partakers of the Resurrection of Christ, cannot be considered simply "dead". Numbering, for example, those whose relics or images are worthy of veneration, John states... "First of all [let us venerate] those among whom God reposed, he alone Holy, who reposes among the Saints (cf. Is 57:15), such as the Mother of God and all the Saints. These are those who, as far as possible, have made themselves similar to God by their own will; and by God's presence in them, and his help, they are really called gods (cf. Ps 82:6). [Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 6 May 2009]