Lord, I never wanted to be separated from You.

Christian Relics

A RELIC is an object or a personal item of religious significance, carefully preserved with an air of veneration as a tangible memorial.The word relic comes from the Latin reliquiae, meaning "remains."

Reliquary at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary with relics of St. James, St. Matthew, St. Philip, St. Simon, St. Thomas, St. Stephen and other saints

Relics of Christian Saints fall into four categories:

First Class Relic is the body or a portion of the body of a Saint; example: bone, flesh, or hair. These are considered so precious that they are rarely entrused to individuals, but are placed in Faith Communities.

The Second Class Relic is an item or piece of an item used by the Saint while in the body; example: clothing, Bible, Breviary, Mass vestments, and so on. Again, second class Relics are considered so precious that they are rarely entrused to individuals, but are placed in Faith Communities.

St. Francis Xavier's humerus. St. Joseph's church, Macao

The Third Class Relic is something that has been touched to the body (or to a portion of the body) of a Saint. Generally, the Third Class Relic is a piece of cloth, but it need not be, as long as the item so touched conveys holiness and is touched with the intent that it be a third class Relic. Third class Relics may be given to individuals, and may be sold.

The chains of Saint Peter, preserved in San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, a second-class relic.

The Fourth Class Relic, somewhat less known, is something that has been touched to a Second Class Relic of a Saint. Generally, the Fourth Class Relic is a piece of cloth, but it need not be, as long as the item so touched conveys holiness and is touched with the intent that it be a fourth class Relic. Again, fourth class Relics may be given to individuals, and may be sold.

Do Catholics Worship Relics of Saints?

They do not worship relics as they worship God, by adoration. If you mean worship in the sense of honor or veneration, then Catholics certainly venerate the relics of Saints. The law, "Honor thy father and thy mother," extends to their persons, body and soul; to their reputations, and to all connected with them. We reverence their remains even after death. And if we are not to venerate the remains of relics of the Saints who have been so entirely consecrated to God, are we to desecreate them? Or are we to be blandly indifferent to them as to the bleached bones of some dead animal lying in the fields? The Catholic doctrine, forbidding adoration, yet commanding respect and veneration, is the only possible Christian conduct.

The veneration of relics is licit and useful. This embodies an article of faith.

The 7th Ecumenical Council (A.D. 787) - condemned "those who dare to reject any one of the things which are entrusted to the Church, the Gospel, or the sign of the cross, or any pictorial representation, or the holy relics of a martyr".

The Council of Trent - enjoins bishops and pastors to instruct their flocks that "the holy bodies of saintly martyrs and others now living with Christ - which bodies were the living members of Christ and the temple of the Holy Ghost and which are by Him to be raised unto eternal life and glorified - are to be venerated by the faithful, for through these (bodies) many benefits are bestowed by God on men.

Is there Proof in the Sacred Scriptures?

Old Testament and New Testament

Cfr. Ex. XIII, 19

4 Kings XIII, 21

Ecclus. XLIX, 18

2 Kings, 13:20-21 Matt. IX, 20

Acts V, 15-16

Acts XIX, 11

Acts 19:11-12

Were The Early Saints Aware Of The Importance of Relics?

St. Ambrose relates how a blind man was restored to sight when the newly found bodies of Sts. Gervasius & Protasius were taken to the basilica, and adds: "You know, nay you have seen with your own eyes, how many were delivered from demons and a great number were cured of diseases when they touched the garments of the Saints; how there was a repetition of the miracles of the early days when, in consequence of the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, abundant grace was showered down upon the earth."

St. Cyril of Jerusalem says: "This holy wood of the Cross is still to be seen among us; and through the agency of those who piously took home particles thereof, it has filled the whole earth."

St. Chrysostom tells how men and women used to wear articles of the Cross in golden lockets on the necks.

St. Augustine says, "we have not erected an altar to the martyr, Stephen, but with the relics of the martyr Stephen we have erected an altar to God."



Can. 1190 

§1 It is absolutely wrong to sell sacred relics.

§2 Distinguished relics, and others which are held in great veneration by the people, may not validly be in any way alienated nor transferred on a permanent basis, without the permission of the Apostolic See.


The selling of Relics is technically "simony" [the sale of spiritual goods, cf. Acts 8 18-24]. While it is wrong to sell Relics, one is allowed to buy them if they are privately sold when buying them would save the Relics from desecration. 

A principle of proportionality applies, that is, the money offered should be in proportion to the good to be achieved. Thus it would not be justifiable to purchase a relic if the good of rescuing that relic was less (in a reasonable judgment) than would be achieved by devoting the same amount of money to other objects such as the poor or homeless. Thus, generally, it will not be justifiable to spend very large amounts of money rescuing relics, although there may be exceptional circumstances. The possibility that rescuing a relic may encourage a market to develop should also be considered.

The buying of Relics at auctions or ebay should never be done. This is because bidding on them would drive up the price, forcing others to pay more when they too may be attempting to rescue the Relics. Such actions also encourage the money makers to increase the likelihood of a market developing in the sale of relics.

How does a person get a relic? 

Relics can be obtained from different Church sources such as the Vicariate in Rome, the Religious Order of the Saint involved, the shrine of the Saint involved, etc... When this is done, a donation is usually expected to cover the cost of the metal container (theca) that contains the relic. But, in all cases, no one is allowed to make a profit from the sale of Relics.

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