By Christopher R. Altieri
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints on Saturday issued an Instruction on the handling of relics. Directed to diocesan Bishops, Eparchs, and those who by law exercise authority analogous to that of Bishops and Eparchs, as well as to those who participate in the procedures regarding the relics of Saints and Blessed of the Church, and of the mortal remains of those declared Venerable and Servants of God, the Instruction is given in order to facilitate the proper handling of such particular material.
The present Instruction replaces the Appendix to the Instruction, Sanctorum Mater.
In the present Instruction, the canonical procedure to follow in order to verify the authenticity of relics and mortal remains, to guarantee their conservation and promote the veneration of relics through the possible specific operations: canonical recognition, removal of fragments and confection of relics, translation of the urn and alienation of the relics. The Instruction expounds, moreover, that which is necessary in order to obtain the consensus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for the effecting of said operations and the procedure to follow for pilgrimages of relics.
The introduction to the Instruction also explains that relics in the Church have always received particular veneration and attention, because the bodies of Saints and Blessed of the Church, destined for resurrection, were on Earth the living temple of the Holy Spirit and the instruments of their sanctity, recognized by the Apostolic See through beatification and canonization. The Instruction’s introduction also stresses that relics of the Saints and Blessed of the Church may not be exposed for veneration by the faithful without an appropriate certificate from ecclesiastical authority that guarantees their authenticity.