Bishop Michael Saltarelli of Wilmington, Deleware celebrated the dedication Mass for a statue of Our Lady Queen of Peace, outside Holy Spirit Church. The statue has drawn the criticism of some in the local community who believe that Catholics worship Mary.
The statue is the result of nearly10 years of effort by parishioners, and its impact was evident at the Mass. The consecration ceremony packed the church, which seats around 800 people, with close to 1,000 attendees.
Bishop Saltarelli used the consecration of the statue as an opportunity to respond to the non-Catholics who objected to the statue on the grounds that it is an idol and that the parishioners would be worshipping her.
"What we are doing here today sadly disturbs many." Saltarelli went on to respond directly to one particularly "respectful and kind" inquirer, the News Journal reported. "We do not worship Mary," Saltarelli said. "She is not a goddess."
But the use of Mary as intercessor to Jesus Christ and God the Father, he said, is an integral part of the Catholic doctrine of the "community of saints" -- the spiritual solidarity that binds together the faithful on earth, in purgatory, and the saints in heaven.
"We pray for each other as wayfarers on earth," Saltarelli said. "So, why can't we reach out to the Blessed Mother also to intercede for us?"
The statue -- like those statues of patriots and historical figures that clutter the Capitol rotunda in Washington -- are not to be worshipped, he said, but to act as inspiration.