The prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, said this week the sale of relics of the saints on eBay is “totally unacceptable business.”
In an interview with the Italian daily La Stampa, the cardinal explained that canon law prohibits the sale of relics.
He said the online auctioning of pieces of bones and clothing are for the most part of doubtful origin and maybe even were stolen, adding that only the objects of devotion of saints and blesseds that have Church approval could be considered authentic.
Cardinal Saraiva also warned that the relics offered on the site could end up being used for satanic purposes.
The online auction site eBay has said that its staff members work to ensure that such objects are not put up for sale. On the other hand, a spokeswoman for eBay issued a note of caution, “With nearly 7 million new items being listed every day …we may not immediately identify infringing items, but if concerned individuals bring them to our attention we will promptly take action.”
Relics of saints or blesseds are intended to help the faithful increase their devotion and draw close to God. A relic can consist of a piece of a saint’s body, clothing they wore, or cloth that was touched to the saint’s body. These objects are usually secured in altars or reliquaries inside churches.
The Catholic Church’s teaching against the selling of relics is drawn from Acts 8:20 where St. Peter confronts Simon the Magician who wishes to buy the power to perform miracles.