Statues & Worship

"The word worship (Saxon weorthscipe, "honour"; from worth, meaning "value", "dignity", "price", and the termination, ship; Latin cultus) in its most general sense is homage paid to a person or a thing. In this sense we may speak of hero-worship, worship of the emperor, of demons, of the angels, even of relics, and especially of the Cross.....

There are several degrees of this worship:

-If it is addressed directly to God, it is superior, absolute, supreme worship, or worship of adoration, or, according to the consecrated theological term, a worship of latria. This sovereign worship is due to God alone; addressed to a creature it would become idolatry.

-When worship is addressed only indirectly to God, that is, when its object is the VENERATION of martyrs, of angels, or of saints, it is a subordinate worship DEPENDENT ON THE FIRST, and relative, in so far as it HONORS THE CREATURES OF GOD for their peculiar relations with Him; it is designated by theologians as the worship of dulia, a term denoting servitude, and implying, when used to signify our worship of distinguished servants of God, that their service to Him is their title to our veneration.

-As the Blessed Virgin has a separate and absolutely supereminent rank among the saints, the worship paid to her is called hyperdulia.

In accordance with these principles it will readily be understood that a certain worship may be offered even to inanimate objects, such as the relics of a martyr, the Cross of Christ, the Crown of Thorns, or even the statue or picture of a saint. There is here no confusion or danger of idolatry, for this worship is subordinate or dependent. The relic of the saint is venerated because of the link which unites it with the person who is adored or venerated; while the statue or picture is regarded as having a conventional relation to a person who has a right to our homage — as being a symbol which reminds us of that person.

Source:Catholic Encyclopedia @

BIBLICAL verses that suggest this definition of worship as applied to other creatures who represent God or what is called veneration are:

-Genesis 18:1-4, 22

-Joshua 5:13-15

-Exodus 3:2-6

-Numbers 22:31

-Judges 6:12-16, 20-23

-Judges 13:15-22


The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, "the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype," and "whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it." The honor paid to sacred images is a "respectful veneration," not the adoration due to God alone:

Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. the movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.

Source: Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2132