Catholicism teaches that images may be made of the apostles and other “saints” (contrary to the Bible’s teaching that all Christians are saints, Rome has to declare people saints after their death based on their good works and other qualifications) so that the faithful may venerate them. Images may be statues or pictures of various types (glass, mosaic, paintings, etc). Let’s look at some paragraphs from the Catechism on this subject:
Paras. 476, 477 “Since the Word became flesh in assuming a true humanity, Christ's body was finite. Therefore the human face of Jesus can be portrayed; at the seventh ecumenical council (Nicaea II in 787) the Church recognized its representation in holy images to be legitimate. At the same time the Church has always acknowledged that in the body of Jesus ‘we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see.’ The individual characteristics of Christ's body express the divine person of God's Son. He has made the features of his human body his own, to the point that they can be venerated when portrayed in a holy image, for the believer ‘who venerates the icon is venerating in it the person of the one depicted’.”
Paras. 1159-1162 “The sacred image, the liturgical icon, principally represents Christ. It cannot represent the invisible and incomprehensible God, but the incarnation of the Son of God has ushered in a new "economy" of images… Christian iconography expresses in images the same Gospel message that Scripture communicates by words. Image and word illuminate each other… All the signs in the liturgical celebrations are related to Christ: as are sacred images of the holy Mother of God and of the saints as well. They truly signify Christ, who is glorified in them. They make manifest the ‘cloud of witnesses’ who continue to participate in the salvation of the world and to whom we are united, above all in sacramental celebrations. Through their icons, it is man ‘in the image of God,’ finally transfigured ‘into his likeness,’ who is revealed to our faith. So too are the angels, who also are recapitulated in Christ: ‘Following the divinely inspired teaching of our holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church (for we know that this tradition comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in her) we rightly define with full certainty and correctness that, like the figure of the precious and life-giving cross, venerable and holy images of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, our inviolate Lady, the holy Mother of God, and the venerated angels, all the saints and the just, whether painted or made of mosaic or another suitable material, are to be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, in houses and on streets.’ … the contemplation of sacred icons, united with meditation on the Word of God and the singing of liturgical hymns, enters into the harmony of the signs of celebration so that the mystery celebrated is imprinted in the heart's memory and is then expressed in the new life of the faithful.
Note also that Catholics pray to the saints for intercession on our behalf.
What response do we have from Scripture? Firstly, Scripture says we are not to make any image to worship or bow down to it because that would be idolatry. (Exod. 20:4-5a)
Secondly, how does anyone know what Jesus looked like? Would not any image of Christ therefore be from someone’s imagination and not really what Christ looked like, and therefore would not the veneration be of another god - one of the artist’s making? Let’s make an analogy here. If I carry a photo of a model in my wallet and tell everyone this photo represents my wife, would I be properly representing my wife? Would it be respectful of my wife or would it cause her to be jealous? God tells us that He is a jealous God, which is why He commands no images for worship.
Images of saints, although not being of God, are nevertheless not to be worshiped (including “veneration”). And, as with images of Christ, these images would be false representations since we do not know what the people looked like.
The issue of praying to the saints would be the same as with praying to Mary. These people are dead and we do not communicate with the dead. Although the Catholic church claims that Mary and the saints are in heaven and are therefore not bound by space and time, the reality is that they would have to be omniscient to hear prayers from people all over the world. The plain fact is that we are told in Scripture that prayers are directed only at God, never to people.
The veneration of the saints and icons is part of the daily practice for Roman Catholics, and yet this is plainly unbiblical and idolatry.
We have seen in this series on Roman Catholicism that Rome’s claim to papal infallibility being directly from God, as well as papal authority, is belied by the history of papal behaviors and teaching which are against what God has told us in the Bible. The Church’s claim to authority of the Magisterium for teaching and interpretation of Scripture has no Scriptural basis, but is a tool of control.
We have also seen that Rome’s works-based system of salvation is directly opposed to the Bible’s teaching of salvation by faith alone, in Christ alone. We’ve examined transubstantiation and the mass, and how it does not resemble anything found in Scripture. We’ve seen how Mary is looked at as being almost equal with Christ in the way they pray to her, worship her, and give her unbiblical attributes of perpetual virginity, sinlessness, and the ability to hear and answer prayer. And, finally, we’ve looked at iconography and veneration of saints, both of which are prohibited by the Bible.
These are the heavy burdens of legalism placed upon the members of the Roman Catholic Church, which result in the Roman Catholic Church being a cultic organization, in which the majority of its members are not true Christians (as testimony after testimony of ex-members attest).
How do we then witness to Catholics? The best way is to show them that salvation is a one-time thing and that it is not as a result of works. Point them to Christ, and not to Mary, for salvation. And that everything their leaders say should be passed through the grid of Scripture.