Sun | Feb 25, 2018

Vatican issues new rules for relics in saint-making process

Published:Sunday | December 17, 2017 | 12:00 AM
In this file photo taken on April 26, 2009, nuns carry on the altar the relics of five new Saints during an open-air canonisation ceremony led by Pope Benedict XVI, in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican.


The Vatican's saint-making office has updated its rules governing the use of relics for would-be saints, issuing detailed new guidelines yesterday that govern how body parts and cremated remains are to be obtained, transferred and protected for eventual veneration.

The instructions explicitly rule out selling the hair strands, hands, teeth and other body parts of saints that often fetch high prices in online auctions.

They also prohibit the use of relics in sacrilegious rituals and warn that the church may have to obtain consent from surviving family members before unearthing the remains of candidates for sainthood.

Officials said the guidelines were necessary given some obstacles that had emerged since the rules were last revised in 2007, particularly when surviving relatives and church officials disagreed.

One current case before a United States appeals court concerns a battle over the remains of Fulton Sheen, an American archbishop known for his revolutionary radio and television preaching in the 1950s and 1960s.

Sheen's niece went to court to force the archdiocese of New York to transfer Sheen's body from under the altar of St Patrick's Cathedral to Peoria, Illinois, where Sheen was born, ordained a priest and where his sainthood cause has been launched by Peoria's bishop.

The New York archdiocese refused and appealed a 2016 lower court ruling in favour of the niece. A decision from the appeals court is expected soon.