A new document issued by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints earlier this month provides new directions for the care and veneration of the mortal remains of holy men and women.
The Instruction “Relics in the Church: Authenticity and Preservation” replaces the appendix to the document Sanctorum Mater, which deals with the manner of conducting an inquiry into the causes of saints – that is, the procedure by which the lives of holy men and women are examined as part of the process of canonization.
Vatican News spoke with Dr Michael Sirilla, Director of Graduate Theology and Professor of Dogmatic and Systematic Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville in the United States.
“A relic is a gift from God in His providence,” Dr Sirilla said. “Relics have a very central place in the Church, and in history, culturally as well.” He said we honour and venerate the bodies of holy men and women, because in this life, their bodies were temples of the Holy Spirit.
Dr Sirilla said that, in the new Instruction, one sees, first of all, that the Church “is very cautious, and in a certain respect you could say scientifically rigourous” in verifying the authenticity of relics. He noted some of the “very clear, detailed, and new guidelines” in the instruction, including involving the heirs of the saints in the process of authenticating and preserving any relics. The document, Sirilla said, also re-affirms “that trade and sale of relics, and their exposure in profane or unauthorized venues is absolutely forbidden.”
In the interview with Vatican Media’s Christopher Wells, Dr Sirilla also speaks about his own experience with relics, and the graces he and his family received through the intercession of the Saints.