When Is A Relic Not A Relic?

To the left are three examples of "relics" that have been appearing for sale on eBay in recent months. There are others, including some purported to be of Pope John Paul II. Some are sold in reliquaries. They are listed as "relics" but are NOT! They may be memorabilia but they are not relics suitable for veneration.

To be considered as relic suitable for veneration there are certain conditions that need to be met. Here are two critical ones:

  • They must be prepared by an eccesiastical authority (bishop or his delegate) or by an approved religious order. These are not.

  • The relic must be from a person approved by the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints and must be declared as either Blessed or Saint. That eliminates Pope Leo XIII who is neither.

To bestow the title of Saint, the proposed candidate passes through a series of stages and at each stage must meet certain qualifications. The titles a candidate receives after passing each stage of the canonization process are:

  1. Servant of the Lord

  2. Venerable

  3. Blessed

  4. Saint

Under unusual circumstances a particular diocese or religious order may be granted a special dispensation for a candidate to be venerated before the title of Blessed or Saint has been bestowed. That special permission only applies to that specific diocese or religious order and does not necessarily grant permission to prepare and distribute relics.

If a relic is transferred from one theca to another, it must be done by an approved ecclesiastical authority and a new authentication document must be prepared to accompany the transferred relic. For an example of such a transfer, please visit this page. A "certificate of authenticity" prepared by the seller of the "relic" does not qualify as an authentic and is usually not worth the paper it is printed upon.

So, if you are a collector of memorabilia feel free to spend your money. However, if you want a true relic approved for veneration you probably will want to avoid these.

"Inca" Fakes

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