A Question I Was Asked:

Is There Any Truth in the 'Veil of Veronica' Catholic Story?

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Is There Any Truth in the 'Veil of Veronica' Catholic Story?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, let us consider this.

First of all, there is no reference to the story of Veronica and her veil in the canonical Gospels. What does this legend claim? The claim is that one 'Saint Veronica' comforted Jesus as He went to the place of crucifixion, she comforted Him by wiping the perspiration and blood from His face. Some associate this with Luke 8:43-48 in which Jesus healed a woman who had suffered regular and ongoing blood loss for many years; when she touched the hem of His garment this woman was immediately healed. Let us look at that:

43. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. 45. "Who touched me?" Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you." 46. But Jesus said, "Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me." 47. Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48. Then he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace." (Luke 8:43-48).

Okay, so some (mainly in the Catholic world), claim that this was the woman who later comforted Jesus and maybe she was, but the story does not occur in the Gospels and is apocryphal, apparently only occurring in the 'Acts of Pilate,' which is not included in the New Testament canon. In this book alone is the woman identified as 'Veronica.'

We do know that the story became elaborated in the 11th century with the addition that Christ gave this Veronica a portrait of Himself on a cloth, with which she was later able to heal sick people. So this was eventually linked with the bearing of the cross in the Passion, and with various supernatural events strengthened by the reference in Roger d'Argenteuil's Bible in French in the 13th century. The story gained further popularity following the internationally popular work 'Meditations on the Life of Christ' of about the same time.

The story is not recorded in its present form until the Middle Ages. During the fourteenth century a 'Veil of Veronica' became a central icon in the Church of Rome. The act of Saint Veronica wiping the face of Jesus with her veil is celebrated in the sixth Station of the Cross in Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox churches.

It seems that there was a physical image displayed in Rome from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries which was known and venerated as the Veil of Veronica. However, the history of that image is somewhat problematic; nobody can now be certain on this apocryphal story or even whether there ever was a genuine 'Veil of Veronica' (or if this was simply a cloth which was incorrectly and superstitiously venerated). From the lack of a more convincing and robust corroboration, nobody can now be certain that the cloth originally displayed in Rome and apparently bearing the image of a man was this same veil or not.

Catholicism and Church Tradition

The reason that Catholicism has held on to a somewhat dubious and unscriptural story (even though possibly containing elements of truth) is the very high value which Catholicism places on 'traditions of the church,' which - within their own theological system - are virtually equal in value to Scripture itself. They use Matthew 18:18-19 to justify this approach:

18. "Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19. "Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven." (Matthew 18:18-19).

For Protestantism, on the other hand, if a thing is not fully scriptural it is discounted. Matthew 18:18 is seen as something that was applied only until the Bible canon was complete and until the creeds, statements of faith and congregational discipline were properly organised.

Robin A. Brace. June 15th, 2019.