The Relics of Rome

Relics
Photo source: Catholic Answers

You don’t need to study the teachings of Roman Catholicism too deeply to be repelled by the stench of death and deception that permeate its practices. There is nothing more creepy and absurd than entering an old style traditional Roman Catholic church filled with skeletons and bones of “saints” and the like.

I once watched a documentary in which a monk took a researcher to the basement of a Catholic monastery, explaining to her the significance of relics to the Catholic faith.

The basement was literally filled with human skulls from the ceiling to the floor.

According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, a relic is “the material remains of a saint or holy person after his death, as well as objects sanctified by contact with his body.”

In utter desperation, modern Catholic apologists try to find a Biblical basis for this practice by citing some Bible passages which actually violate the Catholic definition of relics.

A scholar pointed out that the few Bible texts that Catholic apologists have cobbled together “have to be so grossly isolated, so completely removed from any meaningful context, so as to provide automatic refutation upon the most basic contemplation.”

For example, they cite 2 Kings 13:21

Once while the Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

This passage shows that the people didn’t believe the bones of Elisha had any power whatsoever; they dumped the man’s body on the bones because they sighted their Moabite enemies approaching. It was a one-time miracle by the power of God.

God sovereignly used Elisha’s bones as a vehicle of raising the dead, just as He used ravens to feed Elijah (1Kings 17:6) and a fish to swallow Jonah (Jon. 1:17). There was nothing “magical” about the ravens or fishes.

Notably, this was the only instance where Elisha’s bones worked a miracle, and the Israelites didn’t venerate his bones – even in their days of apostasy.

Let Catholics today throw their corpses on the bones of Padre Pio or Fr. Michael Tansi and let’s watch their dead rise.

Other passages cited are the instances where people touched the cloak of Jesus (Mt. 14:35-36); Peter’s shadow healing the sick and handkerchiefs or aprons from Paul which healed people (Acts 5:15, 19:12).

These aren’t relics since Jesus and the apostles were not dead before these miracles occurred and nowhere in Scripture did Christians venerate these materials.

This is where the “Christian” mask of Catholicism falls off to reveal a sinister side. It’s hard to spin the pictures of people bowing in front of corpses and skulls, blood or hearts of “saints,” lighting candles and fingering rosaries.

Even if you know little of the Bible, such scenarios (especially in Catholic dominated countries) are enough for you to start questioning this religious system.

Some relics, like the Shroud of Turin, the alleged crib of Jesus exhibited on Christmas day or the cup allegedly used at the last supper (“the Holy Grail”) come with sensational thrills; others are just plain outrageous.

For example, several Catholic churches have claimed to have Mary’s hair (some red, some brown, some blonde, some black!); the bottle of milk on which Jesus was suckled; Mary’s skirts; Joseph’s carpenter tools; Jesus’ crown of thorns; the water pots from which water turned to wine, and even Jesus’ foreskin allegedly discovered by the monks of Charroux who claimed it yielded drops of blood.

Interestingly, Catholic churches in Coulombs (France) and St. John’s in Rome have also claimed to have Jesus’ foreskin in their possession! (John Wilder, The Other Side of Rome, 1959, Grand Rapids, p. 54).

Some relics seem to be for people far removed from the world of reality e.g a relic of a piece of broiled fish Peter offered Jesus at the Last Supper which John Calvin (1509-64) sarcastically referenced, that such a fish “must have been wondrously well salted, if it has been kept for such a long series of ages.”

The shrine of the Holy House of Loretto in Italy is a case in point. This building is alleged to be the very house the virgin Mary lived in Jerusalem. So how did it get to Italy? The Catholic Encyclopedia (13:454) explains:

Angels conveyed this House from Palestine to the town Tersato in Illyria in the year of salvation 1291 … Three years later, at the beginning of the pontificate of Boniface VIII, it was carried again by the ministry of angels and placed in a wood … where, having changed its station thrice in the course of a year, at length, by the will of God it took up its permanent position on this spot…”

Perhaps in the next five decades, these “angels” would also transport this shrine to Mexico.

The relics of the cross on which Jesus was crucified were so scattered all over Europe at a time that Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) wrote that one could build an entire ship out of all of the “genuine fragments of the cross.”

Yet, the cross of Christ was carried by a single individual. Are we to believe that single cross multiplied into millions?

St. Paulinus actually admitted that the cross “never grew smaller in size, no matter how many pieces were detached from it” (Cath. Ency. 4:524). You see, once you veer out of truth, there is no limit to your delusion.

The Israelites fell into this same trap. God had earlier instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent as a vehicle of healing those bitten by venomous serpents (Num. 21:9).

This foreshadowed the work of Christ on the cross to undo the deed of the serpent (Jn. 3:14-15). But many years after the bronze serpent has fulfilled its purpose, the apostate Jews still kept it with them for veneration. This made it an abominable object before God and it was finally destroyed by King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:4).

The origins of relics can be traced to ancient paganism. The Catholic Encyclopedia rightly admits that the use of “some objects notably part of the body or clothes, remaining as a memorial of a departed saint” was in existence “before the propagation of Christianity” and “the veneration of relics, in fact, is to some extent a primitive instinct associated with many other religious systems besides that of Christianity” (12: 734).

This use or veneration of relics dates back to the same false worship that God denounced all through His Word. Many of these pagan cults have certain sites regarded as “holy” because a portion of their god is said to be buried there.

In Hindu myths, Shiva was said to have carried the corpse of his wife, Sati “around the world on his shoulder until the other gods, to put an end to his mourning, dismembered the corpse. The spot where each pieces of her body fell to the ground became sacred places of pilgrimage called pithas.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1979, Vol. VIII, 913).

Ancient Egypt “was covered with sepulchres of its martyred god: and many a leg and arm and skull, all vouched to be genuine, were exhibited in the rival burying places for the adoration of the Egyptian faithful.” (Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons, Loizeaux Brothers, 1959, 179).

It must have been due to this exposure to Egyptian paganism that God didn’t disclose to the Israelites where He buried Moses. If apostate Israel could worship an object Moses had made, how much more his bones if they had them!

The New Catholic Encyclopedia (XII, 234-5) says:

It is thus in vain to seek a justification for the cult of relics in the Old Testament; nor is there much attention paid to relics in the New Testament … [The church “father”] Origen seems to have regarded the practice as a pagan sign of respect.

Apart from the pagan roots of relics, there is also a business side to it. The Catholic church generates much money from relics and pilgrimages. For centuries, bone business was big business.

In 750 A.D., it was recorded that long lines of wagons constantly came to Rome bringing immense quantities of skulls and skeletons which were sorted, labelled, and sold by the popes.

A marble slab at the Church of St. Prassade states that in 817, Pope Pascal had the bodies of 2,300 martyrs transferred from the cemeteries to this church (H. B. Cotterhill, Medieval Italy, 1915, 71, 391).

Just as in the occult, bone relics are also used to “consecrate” Catholic altars or church buildings. The castle church of Wittenberg where Luther nailed his 95 theses had 19,000 saintly relics!

The Council of Trent declares that venerating the bodies of dead “martyrs” is compulsory for Catholics because through them, “many benefits are bestowed by God on men.”

In Bible Christianity, however, there is no place for blessings funnelled through dead bones and rotten flesh because Jesus has “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). The Gospel offers life to all who accept it by faith.

True worship is “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). We don’t need a physical object in order to relate with God. The inconsistencies, idolatry and deceptions that relics are based on evince neither godliness nor truth.

Contrasting Biblical and Catholic Sainthood

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On April 27 2014, the world watched in awe as 800,000 people, 6000 Priests, 700 Bishops, 150 Cardinals, 24 Heads of State and two live Popes gathered in the Vatican to make two dead popes into “saints.”

A thunderous applause erupted with the declaration:

We declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II be saints and we enroll them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole Church.

According to Catholic belief, the saints are those who died and are now with Christ in heaven as intercessors, and have been given recognition by the Church for outstanding holiness and virtue.

But according to the Bible, the word saints (Greek: hagios) means “consecrated to God or holy” and it refers to all true Christians – even those who sadly lack spiritual maturity.

The epistles were addressed “to the saints which are at Ephesus” (Eph. 1:1), “to all the saints in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:1), “to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ” (Col. 1:2). These were all living people.

The Catholic process of making someone a saint usually takes decades and sometimes centuries, in order to certify their merit.

There are exceptions, though, like in the case of Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer (the founder of Opus Dei), it took 27 years to make him a saint after his death. Some of the criteria used are:

1. There must be verification of two miracles experienced by persons who prayed to the dead candidate.

John Paul II met with this criterion but John XXIII didn’t, but Pope Francis waived the requirement aside and accepted one miracle instead.

2. Incorruptibilty – If the body of the candidate is free from decay after it’s exhumed from the grave. St. Catherine of Siena (d. 1380) was said to have remained undecayed for 600 years!

3. Liquefaction – If the dried blood of the wannabe saint liquefies on a feast day. This is said to occur to the blood of St. Januarius (patron of Naples) every September 19, his feast day.

4. Odour of Sanctity – If the candidate’s body allegedly exudes a sweet aroma like roses, rather than putrid smell. Catholics claim that the grave of St. Teresa of Avila exuded a sweet fragrance for 9 months after her death.

5. An inquiry into the person’s life, conduct and writings.

Isn’t it curious that the same John Paul II who venerated the Quran; fellowshiped with snake charmers and occult animists; embraced evolution; rejected salvation through Christ alone and protected thousands of paedophile priests passed the Catholic “saint quality control” system? Very convenient.

In Scripture, the word “saints” was applied to believers on earth who were not outstanding people like Peter or Paul.

Acts 9:32 “Peter visited one place after another and eventually came to the saints living down in Lydda

Acts 9:41 “Peter helped her to her feet, then called in the saints and widows...”

1 Cor. 1:2 “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints

2 Cor. 13:12 “Greet one another … all the saints send you greetings”

Biblically, all one has to do to become a saint is to repent and believe the gospel. A person may be declared a “saint” on earth by some men in robes, but if he rejected the gospel that saves or died in his sins, he is in Hell. It matters not whether his blood is liquefied or his corpse smells like Blue de Chanel.

Catholics pray to and revere their “saints”, but in the Bible, saints revere and pray to God. The very old tired Catholic excuse is: “Just as you ask your fellow Christians to pray for you, we are asking them to pray for us.” This is a faulty argument.

First of all, the dead have passed from this world and are dead to us. If we desire the prayers of the saints, we seek the living. God specifically condemns communion with the dead (Deut. 18:10-11).

Any form of communication with the spirits of the dead is spiritism and an abomination before God.

We don’t light candles to our fellow Christians, or bow before their pictures or pray to them to protect and guide us as Catholics do to their saints, so the inter-Christian prayer parallelism falls flat.

Even the New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967, 11:670) admits:

Usually in the N[ew] T[estament]; all prayer, private as well as public liturgical prayer is addressed to God the Father through Christ.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia also says that the main objections against prayers to saints is “that these doctrines are opposed to the faith and trust we must have in God alone … and that they cannot be proved from the Scriptures” (Vol. 8, p. 70). We heartily agree with these objections.

The Lord Jesus taught us to pray as thus “Our Father in heaven” that is, our prayers are to be addressed to God the Father in heaven.

He also taught us that “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it” (Matt. 6:9, Jn. 14:14). Since only God can do and know all things, only He can answer prayer.

Saints in heaven are not omnipotent or omniscient, so how can they protect or hear the prayers of millions of Catholics from all around the world, in different languages at the same time? It’s simply impossible.

Catholicism also places much emphasis on saint relics. These could be body parts, items or clothing used by the saints. These are kept in ornate boxes (called reliquaries) and are displayed for veneration. No Catholic altar is complete without a relic.

Catholic relics too have their grades:
a) Bones/blood of saints are “first class relics”.
b) Items they used are “second class”
c) Objects they touched are “third class” (John Paul II’s bloody shirt worn when shot by an assassin and bits of John XXIII’s skin taken from his cadaver were kept).

Indeed, Catholicism’s sainthood is unbiblical, man-made, idolatrous and superstitious. True Christianity is based on a relationship with a Living Saviour, not with human skulls, rotten flesh or rags.

The only man in Scripture who ever prayed to a dead “saint” was a man who was already in Hell, and his prayer wasn’t even answered! (see Luke 16). Yes, sometimes, such “prayers” do receive answers, but the entities answering prayers to dead “saints” are enemies of God.