I answered this question calling adoration and veneration honor given to God and the saints accordingly.

If you look at the edits for my answer, I think I had some confusion as to the terminology which is popping up again and I still don't know what to do about it. I can repeat the old maxim, "we adore God, we venerate Our Lady and the saints." But then, if asked to define those terms I'd have to say, adoration is worship due only to God and veneration is worship due to those in Heaven who are not God.

If I couldn't call them both worship, then I couldn't accurately compare them and people would say that I couldn't pray to both. If I call both worship, then I take a great step into the land of idolatry and ancestor worship.

This is a Catholic questioned aimed at answers that teenagers would be able to grasp, but all reasonable answers will be considered reasonably :)

1 Answer 1


"Veneration" and "worship" are imprecise terms. The precise terms are:

Dulia: a theological term signifying the honor paid to the saints.

Hyperdulia: a theological term signifying the honour paid to Mary the mother of Jesus.

Latria: a theological term signifying the honour paid to God.

"Veneration" is commonly associated with dulia and hyperdulia; "worship" is commonly associated with latria, but to be technically precise, "veneration" and "worship" are not formally defined on their own.

Because the English language terms are imprecise, depending on the setting or context it would be best to disambiguate the terminology and use the Latin terms instead, mentioning that certain English words are commonly used in place of the Latin words, but the Latin terms are the precise ones (at least that's how my catechism and religion teachers handled the issue of word selection).

Note: the Catholic encyclopedia's definition of latria is rather weak; pragraph 55 of Pope Paul 6th's encylical Mysterium Fidei implies that latria is worship meant for God alone (emphasis mine):

Moreover, the Catholic Church has held firm to this belief in the presence of Christ's Body and Blood in the Eucharist not only in her teaching but in her life as well, since she has at all times paid this great Sacrament the worship known as "latria," which may be given to God alone.

  • Thanks, but I did mention those terms in the answer I linked to. You're saying honor is the precise term I should use when explaining these? Unfortunately it somehow doesn't carry the same weight as worship, but that could only be my perception. Anyway, I think this is one of the reasons why it's such a sticky subject with Protestants.
    – Peter Turner
    Feb 7, 2012 at 15:19
  • I only just now really looked at the question and answer you linked. The point in my answer is that "dulia," "hyperdulia," and "latria" are theologically defined and specific terms whereas "worship," "veneration," and "adoration" aren't. Feb 7, 2012 at 15:21
  • I guess if I'm just fishing for a definition that doesn't exist that's OK too and this is the correct and most precise answer.
    – Peter Turner
    Feb 7, 2012 at 15:21
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    Peter: I added the paragraph beginning with "because" based on your comment. When teaching teens or talking with protestants I would take a 30 second detour to introduce them to the Latin terms, define them, explain that "worship, venerate, and honor" are typically swapped for the Latin terms, but in any doctrinal discussion I would skip the English and stick to the precise Latin terms. Feb 7, 2012 at 15:26
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    Formally, latria, hyperdulia and dulia are Greek, not Latin, terms, although they're generally used untranslated in Latin text, along with words like Eucharistia and Canon, and indeed, Catholicus.
    – Wtrmute
    Nov 15, 2017 at 1:38

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