The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Adamawa State has declared a three-day fasting and prayer session from Monday, Jan 27, 2020 to Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020 over what it termed rampant killing of Christians in the state.
Making the declaration in Yola, the Adamawa State CAN chairman, Rev Dami Mamza said it is the only option left to the Christian community in view of the ‘glaring failure’ of the Federal Government to protect lives of Christians in the state and other parts of the country.
Three Christians, including two prominent Christian leaders as well as a journalist, were killed around the state within the last one week.
The three were a pastor and politician, Rev Denis Magauri, killed by unknown persons at his residence in Mayo Belwa; a broadcaster with Radio Nigeria’s Fombina FM, Mr Maxwell Nashion, killed also by strange elements; and the Michika LGA Chairman of CAN, Lawan Adimi killed by Boko Haram insurgents.
Boko Haram had beheaded Adimi on Tuesday after they rejected a N50 million ransom offer because it fell far too low than their demand.
Boko Haram had earlier abducted him about three weeks ago when they invaded the northern Adamawa town of Michika.
Mamza noted that in the last few years, numerous Nigerian Christians have been massacred in cold blood without the government taking the necessary measures to stop the trend, let alone bring perpetrators to justice.
The chairman enjoined all Christians in the 21 local government areas of Adamawa State to participate fully in the three-day prayer and fasting session effect from Monday, January, 27, 2020.
…As CAN, NYCN, Bishop Ugorji slam fiery priest over prophecy • ‘Catholic Church is not into fortune telling’ – Umuahia Catholic bishop
Knocks and outrage have continued to trail the prophecy of fiery Catholic priest and Director, Adoration Ministry Enugu Nigeria, Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, who prophesied on the Imo governorship between incumbent Governor Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress candidate, Senator Hope Uzodinma that is pending at the Supreme Court.
Fr. Mbaka had in his New Year message predicted that the governorship candidate of APC, Senator Uzodinma, would take over from Hon. Ihedioha as Imo governor, making many to believe that he presumed the Supreme Court judgment would be in Uzodinma’s favour.
Consequently, the Catholic priest has come under heavy criticisms from several groups and individuals, including the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, the National Youth Council of Nigeria, NYCN, and Bishop of Umuahia, Bishop Luscious Ugorji, as they noted that Fr. Mbaka has not only delved into fortune telling, but commercial prophecy.
The NYCN, Imo State chapter, in a statement issued by its President, Isdore Chukwuemeka, in Owerri advised Mbaka not to set the political landscape in the state on fire and leave Governor Ihedioha alone, stressing that the incumbent was massively voted for by the people of Imo.
He also queried where Mbaka was during the eight years of the destruction of the state by the immediate past APC administration headed by Senator Rochas Okorocha.
“We advise Fr. Mbaka to leave Governor Emeka Ihedioha alone. The youths of Imo State are pleased and satisfied with the Rebuild Imo administration.
“Governor Ihedioha barely seven months in office has restored the years the locust had eaten for eight years in the state.
“We do not want further distraction on his efforts in rebuilding the state. Where was Mbaka when Imo State was raped for eight years by a clueless administration that mindlessly looted the treasury of the state?
“He never uttered a word against that evil regime. When darkness reigned in Imo for eight years, Mbaka lost his voice,” Chukwuemeka said.
He said that Mbaka has always directed his prophesies on Imo political leaders who he does not like with the underlying motive to cause confusion in the state, noting that “we cannot remember when he prophesied on political developments in other states.
“We recall how he destabilized Ikedi Ohakim’s administration when he bought hook, line and sinker the allegation that Ohakim had ordered the flogging of a Catholic priest.
“In the end, it turned out that the allegation was false, but Fr. Mbaka had thrived on that falsehood and used it to make jest of Ohakim prior to the 2011 governorship election.”
NYCN, therefore, advised the cleric to stop mixing politics with religion, and do not allow politicians to sway his opinions.
“We have noted a pattern in his prophesies which is always tailored to suit the APC. In 2015, he prophesied in favour of Buhari who was presidential candidate of the APC, he had prayed for Governor Umar Ganduje prior to the 2019 general election despite mind-blowing allegations of corruption against him; and now he has ‘prophesied’ in favour of as another APC chieftain, Senator Hope Uzodinma.”
Also, the state Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Senior Apostle Godson Ibeji, has dismissed the prophecy of Fr. Mbaka over the outcome of the pending Supreme Court judgment, saying that such prophecy does not hold water, wondering why a matter before the highest court in the land would be tossed around.
Ibeji in a statement stated that CAN has consistently kicked against such prophecies tailored to suit the whims and caprices of politicians.
“CAN has consistently opposed such politically motivated prophecies and at the same time strove to maintain the dictates that guide and regulate the practice of Christianity.
“We will continue to toe this path until we restore sanity in the practice of priesthood,” he said.
In his reaction, Bishop Luscious Ugorji of Umuahia Catholic Diocese and the Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara Diocese, said the Catholic Church which Mbaka belongs to as a priest, is not into fortune telling, thus does not give authority to any priest to make predictions on who wins a court case or not.
His words: “The Catholic Church is not into fortune telling and so does not authorize any priest to make predictions on her behalf on who wins a court case.
“Anyone who speaks on such a matter is expressing his personal opinion”.
The prelate said he does not give attention to such predictions, as they are mere guesswork, saying that “in a true democracy only those who win elections have the mandate of the populace to rule.”
Bishop Ugorji advised Imo people not to rely on such guesswork coated in the name of prophecy, but rather pray that their choice as governor with their mandate wins at the Supreme Court.
Parishioners of Catholic Diocese of Aba, Abia State could not hold their happiness on Sunday in all their parishes as the news of the appointment of Monsignor Augustine Ndubueze Echema as the new Bishop for the Dioceses by the head of the church, Pope Francis was announced during their respective church services.
The appointment of Echema is coming four years after the death of the former Bishop of Aba Diocese, His Lordship, Most Rev. Vincent Valentine Ezechukwu Ezeonyia who reigned between April 2, 1990 and February 8, 2015 after a brief illness.
The appointment of the Bishop-elect has put to an end the lingering lobbying and controversy on who succeeds late Ezeonyia. This is also as arrangements for the official installation of Echema as the 2nd Bishop of the Diocese since it was carved out from the Umuahia Diocese in 1990 have started.
Aba Catholics have continued to hail his appointment as a wise decision taken by Pope Francis, saying they were happy that a son of the soil emerged the Bishop-elect.
Photo: CKC Catholic Cathederal Aba
The Bishop-elect, Echema, it was noted also marked his 61 years birthday on December 28.
Echema until his appointment is a Professor of Liturgy at the Catholic Institute of West Africa in Port Harcourt; President of the Liturgical Commission of the Archdiocese of Owerri; Chaplain of the Owerri Provincial Laity Council was born on December 28, 1958 in OhuhuNsulu, then Diocese of Umuahia and now of Aba.
He had his minor seminary formation at St. Peter Claver Minor Seminary in Okpala (1972-1977).
He completed his philosophical studies at the Bigard Memorial Seminary in Ikot Ekpene (1978-1982) and theological studies at the seminary of the same name in Enugu (1982-1986).
He did higher studies at the Philosophisch-TheologischeHochschule Sankt Georgen in Frankfurt, obtaining a Doctorate in Theology, with a specialization in Liturgy (1989-1994).
Echema was ordained a priest on August 16, 1986, for the Owerri clergy.
After the ordination, he held the following positions: 1986-1988: Formator in the minor seminary St. Peter Claver in Okpala; 1988-1989: Parish priest of St. Mark in Umuneke Ngor; 1989-1994: Higher studies in Frankfurt, Germany; 1994-1995: Parish priest of St. Joseph in Schwalbach, in the Diocese of Limburg, Germany; 1996-1998: Deputy Chaplain of the CIWA Worshipping Community in Port Harcourt.
… Those with no ambition usually appointed bishops – Bishop Ugorji
It was jubilation galore in Owerri, the Imo State capital last Thursday, December 12, with canon shots booming at the Maria Assumpta Cathedral Owerri, venue of the Episcopal consecration of Most Rev. Moses Chikwe, as the Auxiliary Bishop of Owerri Archdiocese.
Present at the occasion were the clergy, the religious and lay faithful from various dioceses within the Owerri Ecclesiastical Province and other parts of Nigeria. Many top government officials led by Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha, Governor of Imo State were there as well as friends of the new bishop from the United States of America.
The Pope’s representative in Nigeria, His Grace, Most Rev. Antonio Guido Filipazzi, Archbishop Augustine Akubeze, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and Archbishop of Benin and about 22 other bishops were there too.
Photo: The newly consecrated bishop acknowledges cheers from the faithful shortly after the Mass
His Grace Most Rev. Anthony J.V. Obinna, Catholic Archbishop of Owerri was the Principal Consecrator while bishops Lucius Ugorji of Umuahia and Augustine Ukwuoma of Orlu were the Co-consecrators.
In his sermon at the consecration, Bishop Ugorji, noted that despite the onerous responsibilities of the episcopal office, some priests are tempted to aspire to be bishops and some even tend to consider themselves the best and brightest to be appointed bishops, while forgetting that those who have the mitre in their head never have it on their head.
Bishop Ugorji revealed that, often it is those who have no ambition to be bishops that are appointed, making true the Igbo saying: “ochoniahughi, ohuniachoghi,” which a semi-illiterate once translated into broken English as: “e want want no see, e see see no want”.
“Notwithstanding the awesome responsibilities of the office of a bishop, some folks want their relations and friends to be bishops for reasons of prestige rather than for the highly demanding selfless service involved in the bishopric,” he observed.
Bishop Ugorji who is also the Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara Diocese advised the new bishop to, “Always keep in mind the admonition of St Augustine when he said that any bishop unwilling to preach Jesus Christ zealously and without embarrassment; to defend the Catholic Church with his life; and to suffer for his people without counting the cost, is “a scarecrow standing in a vineyard.”
“In a country like Nigeria that is fast losing its very soul to a growing culture of selfishness, greed and graft; a country where millions are wounded by poverty and reduced to a life of wanton suffering on account of endemic corruption; a country torn apart by tensions, divisions and bloody conflicts; a country where charlatans masquerading as pastors preach a prosperity gospel devoid of the cross, “hawk miracles”, propagate primitive superstitions and encourage malice and vengeance, the voice of a bishop must be a tireless voice that is strong in the condemnation of evil and injustice, a tireless voice that speaks of peace and reconciliation; a tireless voice that upholds authentic gospel values, and sound Christian traditions and seeks to preserve the deposit of faith in its purity and integrity.”
The youths could be seen as young people or young adults from 15-35yrs. From his article, drawn from the Daily Sun Newspaper 19th August 2019“THE USED – LESS NIGERIAN YOUTH”, Charles Dickson writes, “the Nigerian government characterizes youth as “ambitious, enthusiastic, energetic and promising. They are considered vulnerable in society because of the rapid change they experience at this time in their lives. The Church sees her young people also in this light though in the light of the gospel.
The Now and future of the Church:
It is good we recall vividly that this immediate expression of the young people as the NOW of God was captured by Pope Francis in his post-synodal document entitled ‘Christus Vivit’ chapter three(3). It may not be out of place to make that part of the document our reference point. In his own words the Pope writes: “we cannot just say that young people are the future of our world. They are its present; even now, they are helping to enrich it. Young people are no longer children. They are at a time of life when they begin to assume a number of responsibilities, sharing alongside adults in the growth of the family, society and the Church.
Notable ways through which the young people contribute to the present of the church that assures her future:
Mass servers: serving at Mass and other liturgical activities.
Choristers: singing at Mass and other liturgical activities
MOD (Man of Order and Discipline): helping the Church in maintaining order and security.
Joining the priestly and religious life.
Altar Boys and Girls: Dressing the altar and washing the vestments.
They help in cleaning the Church’s compound.
They contribute to the finance of the Church through the youth harvest and youth collection etc.
Pray for the Church by participating in private or public prayers of the church like prayer of the faithful etc.
Fr Henry Opara
Lectors: helping in reading during Mass and other liturgical activities.
They form part and parcel of the Parish Pastoral Council (P.P.C).
Through their writings and presence.
The Church is blessed with their different charisma.
They also use their strength and energy in voluntary actions e.g during the building of new parish structures.
Their contributions start from the immediate family, the life of the family as a domestic church.
They form part of evangelizers, contributing to the mission of the Church not only to themselves, but their peers and others.
When young people participate in church programs, they bring life, creativity and innovation and makes the church ever anew.
The young people use the social media to evangelize.
Some of them are members of the pious Sodalities as Legion of Mary, St. Jude etc and other groups like Mary league, young catholic workers & pro-life movement etc.
Apart from being choristers, some of them also contribute by participating in parish band and cultural groups etc.
Church Wardens: Helps in maintaining order during liturgical functions.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Church has always felt the contributions of her young people but the issue is to make it more pronounced. Thus the urgency of the clarion call from Pope Francis in the 2018 World Mission Sunday entitled ‘Together with young people, let us bring the gospel to all’. This was reiterated by His Grace Most Rev Anthony Obinna in his presidential address to Owerri Archdiocesan Pastoral Council ‘as members of the pastoral council at parish or chaplaincy levels, we need to take a cue from Pope Francis’ message and engage the youth for more effective involvement in pastoral action.’
Pope Paul VI in his ‘Evangelii Nuntiandi’ (Evangelization in the modern world) has this to say,’ existing circumstances suggest to us that we should devote our attention in particular to young people. Their increasing numbers, the fact that increasingly they are making their presence felt in society, the question which trouble them should arouse in everyone the desire to offer them zealously and wisely, the evangelical ideal as something to be known and lived. But it is essential that young people themselves, well versed in the faith and in prayers, should be ever more zealous in their apostolate to their contemporaries. The church relies greatly on such help from young people and we ourselves have repeatedly expressed our full confidence in them’.
THE USED-LESS OF OUR YOUNG PEOPLE: PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES
Despite these levels of knowledge about the contribution of the young people, one may ask why are they not really used or used-less in the mainstream of the ecclesial administration?
There is the saying that a child who washes his hands clean may join the elders on the table. A good number of our young people shy away from making their presence felt.
Instances abound where young people in the parishes and chaplaincies stand out with their charisma. They are being called upon to stand up to be recognized. The words of St. Paul to Timothy can be relevant to the young people of our time:” Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, your love, faith, and purity”. In other words, exhibiting these virtues has its own way of bringing you to the limelight, standing out among your equals, instead of creating an atmosphere of indifference, poor attention to the programmes of your parish or chaplaincies, not registering as members of any youth groups, from sodalities to social groups. Some enter the higher institutions and complete their span of education without registering into National Federation of Catholic Students (NFCS) etc. People around this realm only appear near the church when they are required to get Clearance Letter like A Letter of Attestation etc. You cannot eat your cake and have it. How can we analize the outward display of some of our young people in their dressing? In the words of Charles Dickson,” youths, please, turn a new leaf…Whether you are in town or in the village, we are not useless. We are only used-less; at least even a dead clock shows time correctly twice a day. STAY ALIVE, STAY USEFUL”6. What can you say about the frequent display of the rosary by a national goal keeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa whenever he mounts the goalpost of the Nigerian Super Eagles, an attitude that endeared him to many Catholics and the privilege and honour of being invited by the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria in one of their plenary.
In conclusion, my young people, the church needs you. The society needs you. Try to bloom where ever you are planted. Stop the blame game. The Holy Father in his post synodal document, Christus Vivit (Christ Lives) chapter two(2) enlisted a good number of young saints including Ss Francis of Assisi, Joan of Arc, Dominic and Therese of the child Jesus to mention but a few who made enormous contribution to the church and the world through their good living. Despite the likely challenges involving misunderstanding, discouragement or resentment, the Pontiff encourages them to be steadfast and remain focused.
Rev. Fr. Henry Opara
Owerri Archdiocesan Youth Chaplain
By Prof. Michael Ogunu
(President of the Executive Board of the
World Apostolate of Fatima in Africa)
Images and Symbols
An image is an imitation or likeness of a person or thing. Images need not be exact likenesses, but may vary from actual photographs to conventional figures which are representative of types rather than of real persons or things.
Images are different from symbols. While there can be images of any material thing or any person, non-material realities are better represented by symbols. A symbol is some form or figure that is not a likeness but represents and calls to mind the unseen reality. An artist’s portrayal of Christ’s crucifixion is an image, while a cross is a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice and man’s redemption.
Early Christian Practice
The art of the earliest Christian ages was mainly in symbolic form. Two reasons may be given: First, there was a prohibition of images in Exodus 20:4-6, intended to protect the Hebrews from the idolatry of neighbouring nations. Second, symbols provided the best representation of the great Christian realities. For example, bread and fishes in a basket represented the Eucharist as foreshadowed in Christ’s feeding of the multitude (John 6).
Soon Christians began to picture episodes and persons from the Bible, such as Daniel in the lions’ den and the baptism of Christ. Those who had been pagans were accustomed to portraits of their ancestors and remembered the flower-bedecked pictures of great men and heroes. It was natural for them to desire pictures of Christ and of the martyrs. Christ was depicted especially as a shepherd and as a king and world ruler. An exact image of Him was not available, since the apostles and other eyewitnesses had not described His physical appearance.
There were, however, some disagreement about the practice of picturing the God-Man and holy persons. Some people began to argue that honouring images was a form of idolatry. A long and complex struggle gradually developed.
Veneration of Images
In one of the early episodes of image-breaking, Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604) explained and defended the Christian use of images in a letter to Bishop Serenus of Marseilles:
“We have been informed that thoughtless zeal has led you to smash pictures of saints and that you have excused yourself on the grounds that pictures should not be worshiped. For forbidding their worship, you deserve only praise, but for smashing them you must be censured. It is one thing to worship a painting, but another to be reminded by it of its subject. For what writing is to the literate, painting is to the uneducated. Paintings are employed in churches so that the illiterate can at least read by looking at the walls what they cannot read in books”.
The Catholic viewpoint was summarized in the thirteenth century by St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas taught that images instruct the uneducated, remind people of the mystery of the Incarnation and of the example of the saints, and inspire devotion. When Passiontide begins, for example, the images in churches are veiled as a reminder that it is a period of mourning.
To show honour to images is not idolatry. It is not the statue or picture, the material thing itself which is honoured, but the person who is represented. External gestures of reverence must be at expression of interior attitudes of reverence, or they mean nothing at all. To show honour to Christ’s image is to adore Christ Himself. Veneration paid to saints and their images is called “dulia”, meaning the reverence and homage owed to servant of God. Because of Mary’s pre-eminence, the honour paid to her and to images of her is called “hyperdulia”, a superior veneration. “Latria” is the name given to the worship of God Himself. The Council of Trent (1543-1563) defended the Catholic use and veneration of images:
The images . . . of Christ, of the Virgin Mother of God, and of the other saints, are to be . . . kept in churches and due reverence and honour be paid to them; not because it is believed that there is any divinity or power in them or that anything may be asked from them or that any faith may be put in them as the heathen are wont to believe . . . but because the honour shown to them is referred to the prototypes which they represent; so that, through these images which we kiss and before which we bow with bared heads, we worship Christ and honour the saints whose likeness they display.
The private and personal use of religious images should be guided by the doctrinal principles stated above for their public veneration. The honouring of statues and religious pictures in Christian homes and the use of medals bearing images is an ancient and still valid custom.
Jurisdiction of the Church
As seen from the quotations above, Church authorities exercise direction over the use and veneration of sacred images. They also judge the suitability of particular likenesses. In 1628, Pope Urban VIII recommended that only the form of a dove or tongues of fire be used to represent the Paraclete, and in 1745 Pope Benedict XIV forbade the representation of the Holy Spirit in human form. In more recent times, the image of a heart alone was forbidden as a representation of Christ for devotion to the Sacred Heart.
Some people think that it is wrong to use holy pictures, medals, crucifixes, rosaries and other sacramentals in our religious devotions. According to these people, the Bible does not permit the use of images for worship; for to use them would amount to the worship of idols. Certainly, only God should be adored or worshipped. Adoration belongs to God alone. This is the Catholic teaching. But it is wrong to say that the Bible does not permit the making and the use of images as an aid for religious devotion. We shall see what the Scripture says about this.
The Catholic Church teaches that “images must not be prayed to because they can neither hear, see nor help us”. In other words, the images have no life.
Why then do we have images in the Church? They are used in the Church to help Christians to meditate on the lives of our Lord and the saints which they represent. Furthermore, images help to arouse a feeling of religious devotion and develop a spirit of contemplation.
Biblical Support for Use of Images for Religious Devotion
The Scripture certainly condemns the worship of images. The prophets called such an offence prostitution; that is, an act of infidelity to the love God has for man. But there is however evidence in the Bible that God did allow the making of images for religious devotion. I will now cite below several passages in the Bible to support this fact:
God condemns the sin of idolatry, whether it is in the form of worshipping statues or any other created thing that can become an idol. In Exodus 20:3-5 the Lord forbids the carving of graven images for the purpose of idolatry:
You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.
In Deuteronomy, God warns the Israelites against “fashioning an idol to represent any figure, whether it be the form of a man or of a woman” or of other creatures (see 4:15-18). Joining biblical passages such as these with the divine commandment against idols (see Ex. 20:4); “graven images” in the King James Version, many Christians insist that all statues of religious subjects are forbidden.
We must note, however, that as the rest of the commandment makes clear, God has forbidden only the making of such images with the intention of worshipping them, as the pagans did. He has by no means banned the creation of all religious images.
On the contrary, the Lord actually instructed the Israelites to store those very commandments, carved in stone, within a sacred container (ark) to be decorated with golden images of angelic beings called cherubim (see Exodus 25:10-22). He also commanded the people to decorate the places where they worshipped with gold, bronze, and wooden images of animals and plants (see Ex. 25:33-36; 26:1; 1 Kings 6:23-7:51; 2 Chr. 3:10-4:22).
Anti-Catholic writer Loraine Boettner, in his book Roman Catholicism, makes the blanket statement, “God has forbidden the use of images in worship”. Yet if people were to “search the scriptures” (cf. John 5:39), they would find the opposite is true. God forbade the worship of statues, but he did not forbid the religious use of statues. Instead, he actually commanded their use in religious contexts.
People who oppose religious use of statues forget about the many passages where the Lord commands the making of statues. For example: “And you shall make two cherubim of gold (i.e., two gold statues of angels); of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one piece of the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be” (Ex. 25:18-20).
David gave Solomon the plan “for the altar of incense made of refined gold, and its weight; also his plan for the golden chariot of the cherubim that spread their wings and covered the ark of the covenant of the Lord. All this he made clear by the writing of the hand of the Lord concerning it, all the work to be done according to the plan” (1 Chr. 28:18-19). David’s plan for the temple, which the biblical author tells us was “by the writing of the hand of the Lord concerning it all”, included statues of angels.
In obedience to this divinely inspired plan, Solomon built two gigantic, golden statues of cherubim: “In the most holy place he made two cherubim of wood and overlaid them with gold. The wings of the cherubim together extended twenty cubits: one wing of the one, of five cubits, touched the wall of the house, and its other wing, of five cubits, touched the wing of the other cherub; and of this cherub, one wing, of five cubits, touched the wall of the house, and the other wing, also of five cubits, was joined to the wing of the first cherub. The wings of these cherubim extended twenty cubits; the cherubim stood on their feet, facing the nave. And he made the veil of blue and purple and crimson fabrics and fine linen, and worked cherubim on it” (2 Chr. 3:10-14).
During a plague of serpents sent to punish the Israelites during the exodus, God told Moses to “make [a statue of] a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it shall live. So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live” (Num. 21:8-9).
One had to look at the bronze statue of the serpent to be healed, which shows that statues could be used ritually, not merely as religious decorations.
This is not to say that the image of a fiery serpent healed the people who were bitten. It was God who healed them but He effected the healing through the use of the fiery serpent. Today, we do not look on the fiery serpent for our salvation. We have something better: The cross of Jesus – Col. 1:20; 2:14; John 12:32.
Having regard to all these evidences from the Sacred Scripture, we can safely conclude that God does not condemn the making of images but He condemns the worship of them.
We need the things of this world to think about things beyond our knowledge. There is nothing wrong in the use of blessed medals, holy pictures, crucifixes, rosaries, if these can help us to life our minds to God.
Why do Catholic churches, schools, and homes display religious statues and other images? Such images are an aid to remembering and honouring our Lord, his mother, the saints, and the angels.
No Catholic who knows anything about the Catholic faith has ever worshipped a religious image. Even when Catholics kneel to pray before a statue, or burn candles or place flowers before it, they are not worshipping the image. They are simply expressing love and honour for the person represented by the statue.
The crucifix is not the object of our thought when we look at it. It is not the crucifix that the Christians adore; it is Jesus Christ, whose image is engraved on the wood, that is adored. The crucifix therefore recalls to mind the passion of Jesus and the goodness of God. The Christian must lift his mind beyond the cross to Jesus who has come to save him and the world.
Similarly Ezekiel 41:17-18 describes graven (carved) images in the idealized temple he was shown in a vision, for he writes, “On the walls round about in the inner room and (on) the nave were carved likenesses of cherubim”.
Do Catholics Worship Images?
People who do not know better sometimes say Catholics worship statues. Not only is this untrue, it is even untrue that Catholics honour statues.
Catholics use statues, paintings, and other artistic devices to recall the person or thing depicted. Just as it helps to remember one’s mother by looking at her photograph, so it helps to recall the example of the saints by looking at pictures of them.
The fact that someone kneels before a statue to pray does not mean that he is praying to the statue, just as “the fact that someone kneels” with a Bible in his hands to pray does not mean that he is worshipping the Bible. “Statues or paintings or other artistic devices are used to recall to the mind the person or thing depicted. Just as it is easier to remember one’s mother by looking at her photograph, so it is easier to recall the lives of the saints by looking at representations of them.
Sometimes anti-Catholics cite Deuteronomy 5:9, where God said concerning idols, “You shall not bow down to them”. Since many Catholics sometimes bow or kneel in front of statues of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary and other saints, anti-Catholics confuse the legitimate veneration of a sacred image with the sin of idolatry.
Though bowing can be used as a posture in worship, not all bowing is worship. In Japan, people show respect by bowing in greeting (the equivalent of the Western handshake). Similarly, a person can kneel before a king without worshipping him as a god. In the same way, a Catholic who may kneel in front of a statue while praying isn’t worshipping the statue or even praying to it.
The Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566) taught that idolatry is committed “by worshipping idols and images as God, or believing that they possess any divinity or virtue entitling them to our worship, by praying to, or reposing confidence in them” (374).
Thus, the Catholic Church absolutely recognizes and condemns the sin of idolatry. What anti-Catholics fail to recognize is the distinction between thinking a piece of stone or plaster is a god and desiring to visually remember Christ and the saints in heaven by making statues in their honour. The making and use of religious statues is a thoroughly biblical practice. Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know his Bible.
As clearly stated in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Revised Edition – 2132, “The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed ‘the honour rendered to an image passes to its prototype’, and ‘whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it’ (The Council of Nicaea 11:DS601). The honour paid to sacred images is a ‘respectful veneration’, not the adoration due to God alone”.