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Veneration in Noto St Conrad of Piacenza (San Corrado)

Veneration (Latin veneratio, Greek δουλεία, douleia), or veneration of saints, is a special act of honoring a saint: a dead person who has been identified as singular in the traditions of the religion. It is practiced by the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic Churches, Anglican Communion, and Lutheran Church. Veneration is often shown outwardly by respectfully bowing or making the sign of the cross before a saint's icon, relics, or statue. These items may also be kissed.

Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran

In Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran theology, veneration is a type of honor distinct from the adoration due to God alone. According to Deacon Dr. Mark Miravelle, of Franciscan University of Steubenville, the English word "worship" has been associated with both veneration and adoration:

Adoration, which is known as latria in classical theology, is the worship and homage that is rightly offered to God alone. It is the acknowledgement of excellence and perfection of an uncreated, divine person. It is the worship of the Creator that God alone deserves.

Veneration, known as dulia in classical theology, is the honor due to the excellence of a created person. This refers to the excellence exhibited by the created being who likewise deserves recognition and honor. We see a general example of veneration in events like the awarding of academic awards for excellence in school, or the awarding of the Olympic medals for excellence in sports. There is nothing contrary to the proper adoration of God when we offer the appropriate honor and recognition that created persons deserve based on achievement in excellence.

Here a further clarification should be made regarding the use of the term "worship" in relation to the categories of adoration and veneration. Some schools of theology use the term "worship" to introduce both adoration and veneration. They would distinguish between "worship of adoration" and "worship of veneration." The word "worship" (in the same way the theological term "cult" is traditionally used) in these classical definitions was not at all synonymous with adoration, but could be used to introduce either adoration or veneration. Hence Catholic writers will sometimes use the term "worship" not to indicate adoration, but only the worship of veneration given to Mary and the saints.[1]

Church theologians have long adopted the terms latria for the type of worship due to God alone, and dulia for the veneration given to saints and icons. Catholic theology also includes the term hyperdulia for the type of veneration specifically paid to Mary, mother of Jesus, in Catholic tradition. This distinction is spelled out in the dogmatic conclusions of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (787), which also decreed that iconoclasm (forbidding icons and their veneration) is a heresy that amounts to a denial of the incarnation of Jesus.

Now, the Roman Catholic tradition has a well established philosophy for the veneration of the Virgin Mary via the field of Mariology with Pontifical schools such as the Marianum specifically devoted to this task[2][3][4].

In Hebrew the word for honoring a person such as a king or prophet is שׁחה, which is the same word for worship of God[5]. Examples of such worship of or honoring men are demonstrated in 1 Kings 1:23 where the Prophet Nathan bowed (שָׁחָה‎) to King David:

And they told the king saying, "Behold, Nathan the prophet." And he came in before the king and he prostrated himself unto the king upon his face, to the ground.
This word is also used in Genesis 23:7, 27:29, 33:3, 2 Kings 2:15, 1 Samuel 25:41 to refer to honoring men by bowing to them or falling prostrate.

Possible veneration of an angel, which is identified as the Archangel Michael in rabbinical commentary[6], can be found in Joshua 5:14:

And he said, "Nay, but as captain of the host of the LORD have I now come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said unto him, "What saith my lord unto his servant?" (21st Century KJV)

Other religious traditions

In Protestantism, except Lutheran and Anglican churches, veneration is sometimes considered to amount to the heresy of idolatry, and the related practice of canonization amounts to the heresy of apotheosis. Protestant theology usually denies that any real distinction between veneration and worship can be made, and claims that the practice of veneration distracts the Christian soul from its true object, the worship of God. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin writes that "(t)he distinction of what is called dulia and latria was invented for the very purpose of permitting divine honours to be paid to angels and dead men with apparent impunity." Likewise, Islam also condemns any veneration of icons. The Hindu honoring of icons and murtis, often seen as idolatry, may also be looked upon as a kind of veneration.

In the tradition of Green Christianity (or Creation-centered theology) animals, plants, and other parts of nature may be said to be venerated simply by taking good care of them, thereby showing honor and respect for God who made them. Creation, being regarded as an icon of the Creator, is a valid object of veneration.

Philologically, to venerate derives from the Latin verb, venerare, meaning to regard with reverence and respect. This word derives from the same root as the name Venus, the goddess of love of the ancient Roman pantheon.


  1. Mark Miravalle, S.T.D, What is Devotion to Mary?
  2. Mariology Society of America
  3. Centers of Marian Study
  4. Publisher’s Notice in the Second Italian Edition (1986), reprinted in English Edition, Gabriel Roschini, O.S.M. (1989). The Virgin Mary in the Writings of Maria Valtorta (English Edition). Kolbe's Publication Inc. ISBN 2-920285-08-4
  5. שָׁחָה‎ (shâchâh)-- A primitive root; to depress, that is, prostrate (especially reflexively in homage to royalty or God): - bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship.Hebrew Lexicon on Shachah
  6. Now, this was Michael, as it is said: “Michael your prince.”Rashi's commentary on Joshua 5:15

See also

External links

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