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Anonymous wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Is the phoenix currently considered a valid symbol of the Resurrection for Catholics (as it was by the early Church); or is it considered a purely pagan symbol to be avoided by practicing Catholics?


  { Is the phoenix today considered a valid Catholic symbol for the Resurrection or a pagan symbol? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Anonymous —

I can't think of any culture today in the world that would use the Phoenix as a valid symbol for the Resurrection of Christ. That doesn't mean it couldn't.

The issue you bring up, is one of practice, custom, and tradition small t and not doctrine.

I would say that any symbol that meaningfully and respectfully connotes a valid symbol for the Resurrection of Our Lord would be OK to use. Previous [illiterate] cultures used symbols as a means to spread the Gospel. (i.e. in the catacombs)

I found one page on the Catholic Answers web site that you and our other readers may find interesting.

In this article by Mike Aquilina writes:

I found it fascinating that these ancient preachers and correspondents, though from different lands, drew from a common store of rhetorical devices, metaphors, and symbolic allusions. Writing from Rome to Corinth, for example, St. Clement could invoke the story of the phoenix — the mythological bird that dies in flame and rises from the ashes — as an obvious sign of the Resurrection.

Hope this helps,


Anonymous replied:

Thanks for your answer.

What you have written seems like a reasonable approach.

I'm confused by your emphasis on illiterate cultures; both for its relevance (although I suspect you were saying it was used to simplify the message and make it readily accessible), and also that St. Clement (one of the earliest popes who some say was ordained by St. Peter himself) wrote about it as a symbol in his first letter to the Corinthians. I believe it can also be found in many churches, especially older European ones and it is listed in the Catholic encyclopedia.

I suppose my question, or concern is, in the context of using symbols from other mythologies for Christianity.

  • The symbolism of the phoenix is similar to the Resurrection, however does incorporating mythological symbols end up tainting the truth of Christianity?
  • Is it akin to pagan idol worship?
  • If so, why would an early Catholic pope encourage it?
  • Or are such things considered acceptable as long as there is no worship of the symbol itself?
    (Perhaps this is why it is not so widely used anymore.)

Anyway, thanks for any insight.


Mike replied:

Hi, Anonymous —

You said:

  • If so, why would an early Catholic pope encourage it?
  • Or are such things considered acceptable as long as there is no worship of the symbol itself?

I can't speak for a Pope nor am knowledgeable about the culture back then but I would tend to agree with your reasoning.

My understanding is some of the early Christian symbols, like Christmas trees, have pagan origins. Nevertheless, they were Christianized.

Finally, the statement on symbols being used in [illiterate] cultures as a means to spread the Gospel was just a statement, I was making. No emphasis was intended.

Sorry if I came across the wrong way.


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