Relics and their veneration are Catholic’s practice that have at least negative connotation for Protestants and “Bible only” Christians. Many would consider them as superstitious belief copied from other religions and even condemn them as idolatry, i.e. “worshipping” pieces of cloth or personal belongings of departed saints, their bones and believing they have supernatural power.
The teaching of the Church on veneration of relics and of images is related to that of the Communion of Saints and is declared at Council of Trent (Session XXV) and summarized below (emphasis in bold letters is mine):
- The saints [in heaven] who reign together with Christ [2 Timothy 2:12] offer up their prayers to God for men, that it is good and beneficial suppliantly to invoke them and to have recourse to their prayers, assistance and support in order to obtain favours from God through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who alone is our redeemer and saviour.
- The holy bodies of the holy martyrs and of others living with Christ, which were the living members of Christ and the temple the Holy Ghost, to be awakened by Him to eternal life and to be glorified, are to be venerated by the faithful, through which many benefits are bestowed by God on men.
- The images of Christ, of the Virgin Mother of God, and of the other saints are to be placed and retained especially in the churches, and that due honour and veneration is to be given them; not, however, that any divinity or virtue is believed to be in them by reason of which they are to be venerated, or that something is to be asked of them, or that trust is to be placed in images, as was done of old by the Gentiles who placed their hope in idols; but because the honour which is shown them is referred to the prototypes which they represent, so that by means of the images which we kiss and before which we uncover the head and prostrate ourselves, we adore Christ and venerate the saints whose likeness they bear.
- Great profit is derived from all holy images, not only because the people are thereby reminded of the benefits and gifts bestowed on them by Christ, but also because through the saints the miracles of God and salutary examples are set before the eyes of the faithful, so that they may give God thanks for those things, may fashion their own life and conduct in imitation of the saints and be moved to adore and love God and cultivate piety.
- In the invocation of the saints, the veneration of relics, and the sacred use of images, all superstition shall be removed, all filthy quest for gain eliminated, and all lasciviousness avoided, so that images shall not be painted and adorned with a seductive charm, or the celebration of saints and the visitation of relics be perverted by the people into boisterous festivities and drunkenness, as if the festivals in honour of the saints are to be celebrated with revelry and with no sense of decency.
If there are miracles attributed to relics Catholics believe they come from God. Examples from Scripture are: bones of prophet Elisha were able to bring back to life a dead person (2 Kings 13:21) and handkerchiefs or apron, upon touching apostle Paul’s body, have healing power and are able to cast away evil spirit (Acts 19:12). Granted that not all relics have such miraculous power and the Catholic Church never encourages belief in a magical virtue, or physical curative efficacy residing in the relic itself (Source: Catholic Encyclopaedia ). While veneration of relics has parallel with similar practices in other religions it is not the reason to reject it. Other religions have priesthood system, which also belongs to Christianity. The belief that God became man is neither unique to Christianity nor Christianity was the first who teaches such thing.