There is a biblical tradition of relics

Dear Editor, Margaret Ahearne, (IC 7/11/13) is grossly in error when she states that the use and veneration of the relics of the saints is unbiblical and unchristian. Far from it. There are several biblical references, both in the Old and New Testaments, from which the Catholic Church derives this practice and Christians from antiquity have seen the veneration of relics as a means to come closer to the saints and to help form a closer bond with God.

The custom can be seen as far back as the Book of Exodus (13:19) where Moses carried with him the bones of Joseph. In the second Book of Kings (13:20-21) we read how a dead man was brought to life as soon as he touched the bones of Elisha.

In the New Testament in Matthew (9:20-22) we see how the woman who suffered haemorrhages for years was cured as soon as she touched the hem of Jesus’ cloak and in Acts (19:11-12) we are told that “when handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched the skin of St Paul were brought to the sick their diseases left them”.

St Jerome, in 4th Century wrote that “we honour the martyr’s relics so that thereby we give honour to him whose witnesses they are”.

At the second Council of Nicaea in AD787 it was decreed that relics of at least one martyr be sealed into the altar or altar stone at its consecration.

As for John the Baptist, historical mention has been made of his relics being honoured in Samaria around the middle of the 4th Century and St Jerome has borne witness to miracles being worked there. The whereabouts of John’s head have not been determined but the decapitation cloth from his martyrdom is held in Aachen Cathedral.

It could hardly be much clearer than this. The Catholic practice of venerating the relics of saints and martyrs is most assuredly biblical and Christian and brings honour to God through the saints.

 Yours etc.,

Patrick McKerr,


Co Westmeath.