No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1:18)

QUESTION: Is there anything in Catholic doctrine which prohibits or restricts displaying an image in the "likeness" of God the Father?

Remark: I ask, because I seem to be coming across more and more such images. Yet, I thought that such was not permissible. Consider, for example, the Name of God for the Israelites (abbrev., The Tetragrammaton), then replaced by LORD (in smallcaps). Finally, somewhat recently, I thought that the Catholic Church had forbidden the pronunciation of the HOLY NAME alluded to, thus producing a change to some of the Catholic hymns to reflect this.


2 Answers 2


On images of God the Father according to Catholicism?

Is there anything in Catholic doctrine which prohibits or restricts displaying an image in the "likeness" of God the Father?

The short answer is no?

Nevertheless, there are general rules applicable to sacred images.

Sacred Images

  1. The use of sacred images is of major importance in the whole area of popular piety, since culturally and artistically they assist the faithful in encountering the mysteries of the Christian faith. Indeed, the veneration of sacred images belongs to the very nature of Catholic piety. Such is clear from its artistic patrimony, which can be seen in many churches and sanctuaries, and to which popular devotion has often contributed.

Here, the principles apply which govern the liturgical use of images of Christ, Our Lady, the Saints. These have been traditionally asserted and defended by the Church in the knowledge that "the honour rendered to the image is directed to the person represented"(20). The necessary rigour which has to be applied in drawing up the iconographic scheme of churches(21) - in matters relating to the truths of the faith and their hierarchy, beauty an quality- must also be applied to images and objects destined for private and personal devotion.

So as to ensure that the iconography used in sacred places is not left to private initiatives, those with responsibility for churches and oratories should safeguard the dignity, beauty and quality of those sacred images exposed for public veneration. Likewise, they should avoid the de facto imposition on the community of pictures or statues inspired by the private devotion of individuals.

The Bishops, therefore, and the rectors of sanctuaries are to ensure that the sacred images produced for the use of the faithful, either in their homes or on their persons, or those borne aloft on their shoulders, are not reduced to banalities, nor risk giving rise to error.

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Dove of the Holy Spirit stained glass built by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1660 inside St. Petrs s basilica

The only stained glass window at St. Peter’s Basilica is that of a Dove representing the Holy Spirit. The Paraclete, just like God the Father can only be be envisioned symbolically as both are spirit and can not be envisioned artistically as such. Thus the Holy Spirit is often represented as a dove; while God the Father is seen in art a elder (man) with grey hair and a beard.

On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel at St. Peter’s Basilica is The Creation of Adam:

The Creation of Adam is probably the most famous fresco in the Sistine Chapel and one of the most famous in modern art.

It was created by Michelangelo around 1511 and is located in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel inside the Vatican Museums. It was one of the most complex and difficult paintings to make: it took sixteen days to complete. Michelangelo started with the figure of God and the Angels and later frescoed the figure of Adam.

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Images of the Most Holy Trinity within Catholicism are quite popular,

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Strange as it is, Catholicism has no Feast of God the Father. But there is a movement to petition Rome to inaugurate such a feast for the First Sunday of August. Time will tell.

A feast for the Father by F. Raniero Cantalamessa:

«It’s sad that in the whole liturgical year there isn’t a feast dedicated to the Father, that in the whole Missal there isn’t even a votive Mass in His honour. Come to think of it, it’s very strange; there are many feasts dedicated to Jesus the Son; there is a feast of the Holy Spirit; there are many feasts dedicated to Mary… There isn’t a single feast dedicated to the Father, “source and origin of all divinity”. We could almost say that the Father, and no longer the Holy Spirit, is “the unknown divinity”. It’s true, there is the feast of the Holy Trinity, which, however, is the feast of a mystery, or a dogma and not of a person and, nevertheless, not of a single divine person. Besides, the fact that there is a feast of the Holy Family doesn’t make up for the fact that the Church may feel the need the celebrate, even individually, the three persons of the Holy Family. Couldn’t this be the moment to fill this gap?»

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa is now been elevated to the dignity of a cardinal and is the official Preacher of the Papal Householdat at the Vatican.

As for not pronouncing the Name of God in the liturgy, Catholics since 2008 do it not because of doctrine, but rather out of respect to the Jewish people.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a letter on June 29, 2008 which included a number of directives on the translation and the pronunciation of the Divine Name as signified in the sacred tetragrammaton in the Liturgy. The directives indicate that the name of God in the form of the tetragrammaton is neither to be used nor pronounced in the Liturgy, and that the translation of the Divine Name, in accord with Liturgiam authenticam, no. 41, is to be rendered by the equivalent of Adonai/Kyrios, in English, "Lord."

The letter from the Holy See explains that the Divine Name as revealed in the Old Testament, יהוה (YHWH), has been held as unpronounceable as an expression of reverence for the greatness of God. The directive notes that "in recent years the practice has crept in pronouncing the God of Israel's proper name," known as the holy or divine tetragrammaton, written with four consonants, YHWH, in the Hebrew alphabet. In order to vocalize it, it is necessary to introduce vowels that alter the written and spoken forms of the name (i.e. "Yahweh" or "Jehovah"). Citing theological and philological reasons, and in keeping with tradition, the letter reminds the bishops that "from the beginning… the sacred tetragrammaton was never pronounced in the Christian context nor translated into any languages into which the Bible was translated." Historically the Divine Name was rendered in Hebrew as Adonai, in Greek as Kyrios, and in Latin as Dominus. This is evident in the Bible in both Septuagint and the Vulgate texts of the Bible (the New American Bible, used in the Lectionary for Mass, follows the same principle in translation). Liturgical texts have always followed that tradition. - The Name of God in the Liturgy


No, the Roman Catholic Church does not prohibit portrayals of God the Father, anymore than it prohibits portrayals of Jesus or the Holy Spirit.

The primary evidence for this is the huge number of portrayals that abound in Roman Catholic churches in all parts of the world. As an illustration I present one of the most famous portrayals in the most central and holy Catholic sites.

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