NEW YORK — Roman Catholics in New York City will observe what they call a veneration of a vial of blood drawn from the late Pope John Paul II this weekend, as others are expressing concern about the idolatry of such practices.
The relic tour was recently announced by the Knights of Columbus, which regularly hosts the vial at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C.
“There was no greater champion of human rights in our lifetime than St. John Paul, who reminded us that those rights begin with religious liberty and the rights of conscience,” said Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “He did this most memorably in the first year of his papacy when he returned to Poland and brought there the hope of freedom, and again when he spoke so clearly on behalf of religious freedom at the U.N. in New York.”
This Saturday and Sunday, the relic will appear at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, where Catholics will be invited to visit the vial following mass both days. Nationally-recognized Cardinal Timothy Dolan will conduct mass for the final service on Sunday. The tour will then move to Philadelphia the following weekend.
The relic, which is decorated with twelve red stones that represent the twelve apostles of Jesus, as well as the image of the former pope, made a tour stop in Boston last month at Holy Cross Cathedral.
“We are grateful to the Knights of Columbus and Saint John Paul II National Shrine for making it possible for people of faith to pray before the relic of Saint John Paul II,” Cardinal Seán O’Malley told CBS Boston. “He meant so much to the people of the Archdiocese of Boston and around the world, enlivening in them the presence of God’s grace and love.”
As previously reported, Pope Francis was presented with the vial this past April during a ceremony in which he declared sainthood to John Paul II, decreeing that he was “to be venerated as [a saint] by the whole [Roman Catholic] Church.” Francis kissed the relic holding the deceased pontiff’s blood as it was received and placed at the altar.
But others are concerned about the practice of veneration itself, stating that it is unbiblical. Mike Gendron of Proclaiming the Gospel Ministries in Plano, Texas told Christian News Network that such practices are rooted in paganism.
“The Catholic Church is known for some bizarre practices, but sending a vial of blood from a dead pope on a tour is one of its strangest,” he explained. “Why would Catholics come to venerate the blood of a dead man? It is because the worship of the dead is practiced and commanded in Catholicism. Every Catholic altar must have a relic of a dead saint, which is either blood, skin or bone fragments from their body. Catholicism views such relics as holy objects.”
“However, this is pagan necromancy, which the Bible strictly forbids,” Gendron continued. “Anyone in the Old Testament who came in contact with a dead person or a grave was considered unclean and could not take part in worship (Numbers 19:16; Leviticus 21:1). According to the Word of God, the consultation of the dead are prohibited in Scripture (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).”
“I find it disturbing that Catholics deny the efficacy of Christ’s blood which was shed to redeem the church, yet they venerate the blood of a dead pope who embraced a false and fatal gospel,” he added. “God’s Word clearly teaches that ‘the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7).”
According to the Catholic Education Resource Center, there are three types of relics: first-class relics, which are removed from the body of a person declared a saint; second-class relics, which are objects belonging to such individual, and third-class relics, or objects touched by the person.
John Paul II passed away in 2005 at the age of 84. A number of American presidents attended his funeral, including George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.