Do Catholics Worship God or Jesus? The Surprising Truth


The question of who Catholics worship – God or Jesus – is one that has long been debated both within and outside of the Catholic Church. Though the answer may seem straightforward to some, Catholic theology contains nuances around the nature of God and Jesus that have led to disagreement and confusion historically. This article will examine Catholic beliefs about the divinity of Jesus, the worship of God the Father, and the veneration of Jesus and the saints. By exploring the complex theology behind Catholic worship practices, we can gain a deeper understanding of how Catholics relate to the divine.

Beliefs About God

Catholics worship the one true God, who reveals himself as three persons: God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is referred to as the Trinity. As the Catechism states, “The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons,” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 233).

God the Father is the first person of the Trinity. He is the creator of all things, and the source of divine revelation, who sent his Son for the salvation of humanity (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 238-240). Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is the second person of the Trinity. He is eternally begotten of the Father and became incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit for the redemption of humanity (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 422-423). The Holy Spirit, as the third person of the Trinity, reveals God’s truth to humanity and dwells in the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 688).

Though they are distinct persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one in being and are equal in divinity. Catholics believe in and worship this triune God. As the Catechism states, “The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the ‘mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God,'” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 237).

Jesus’ Divinity

Christians have always affirmed the divinity of Jesus Christ as central to their faith. This belief is rooted in the New Testament, where Jesus is presented as the Son of God and part of the Holy Trinity. According to Catholic doctrine, Jesus is the Word of God made flesh, fully human and fully divine (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 464-469).

The divinity of Christ is evident in the Gospel of John, which begins by equating Jesus with the Word of God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). John’s Gospel has Jesus repeatedly claiming unity with God the Father, provoking charges of blasphemy from the Jewish authorities (John 10:30-39). The divinity of Jesus is also affirmed throughout the Pauline epistles, which refer to Christ as existing in “the form of God” and being equal with God (Philippians 2:6-11).

Belief in Christ’s divinity was present from the earliest days of Christianity. The Apostles’ Creed, dating back to at least the 4th century, declares that Jesus is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.” The ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 AD condemned the Arian heresy which denied the full divinity of Christ. The Council affirmed that Jesus is “begotten, not made” and is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God” (Source). This core belief has defined orthodox Christianity for nearly two millennia.

Worship of God the Father

Catholics direct the majority of their prayers and worship to God the Father, who is the first person of the Holy Trinity. As the Catechism states, “We pray to the Father through Christ our Lord in the Holy Spirit” (Source 1). This worship is centered around the Mass, where Catholics offer praise and thanksgiving to God and affirm their belief in his divine nature (Source 2). The opening prayers of the Mass, known as the collect, address God the Father. The Eucharistic Prayer, the central part of the Mass, is also addressed to God the Father. Catholics believe that worship directed to the Father is made possible through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. As Jesus himself said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Veneration of Jesus

Catholics venerate Jesus Christ but do not worship him in the same way as God the Father. Veneration is a special honor and love shown towards holy persons, such as the saints and Jesus. According to Catholic teaching, veneration is distinct from the adoration and worship owed only to God (Source).

Catholics pray to Jesus frequently, asking for his intercession and help. For example, the “Hail Mary” prayer asks Jesus’ mother Mary to “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” Prayers like the Divine Mercy Chaplet are addressed directly to Jesus, calling on his mercy and forgiveness. However, such veneration and prayers for intercession are not the same as worship reserved for God alone.

Catholics believe Jesus is the Son of God, divine in nature, and united fully with God the Father. Therefore, honor and veneration are properly given to him. However, adoration in Catholic teaching is due to God alone. Veneration given to Jesus is ultimately directed back to adoration and worship of the Father (Source).

The Mass

The Mass is the central liturgical ritual in the Catholic Church where the Eucharist is consecrated. During the Mass, praise and worship are directed to God (The structure and meaning of the Mass). The purpose of the Mass is to glorify God and sanctify and transform the faithful who participate in it (Purpose of the Mass).

The Mass contains two main parts – the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In the Liturgy of the Word, readings from the Bible are proclaimed and the homily reflects on the scripture readings. This is directed toward God as the scriptures are the revealed Word of God. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the bread and wine are consecrated and become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This is the sacrament of Holy Communion where Catholics receive Christ and are united to Him.

The praise and worship during the Mass is directed to God the Father. The sacrificial offering of Christ’s Body and Blood is made to God. The Mass glorifies God the Father and His saving actions through His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (Central Focus at Mass).

Saints and Mary

Catholics do not worship saints or Mary. However, Catholics do venerate saints and Mary. Veneration means honoring or revering a holy person. It is very different from the worship that is due to God alone.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors. ‘The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history.’ Indeed, ‘holiness is the hidden source and infallible measure of her apostolic activity and missionary zeal’” (CCC 828).

When Catholics venerate the saints, they are not worshipping them as gods, but simply acknowledging and honoring the holy lives they led. Saints are seen as role models of holiness for regular Christians to emulate. Asking saints to pray and intercede for us does not take away from Christ’s unique mediatorship, but rather relies on the power of their prayers, just as asking a friend or family member to pray for you does not take away Christ’s role as mediator.

Veneration of Mary follows similar principles. Catholics do not view Mary as divine, but they honor and revere her as the highest of God’s creatures, the Mother of Jesus, and the perfect model of faith and virtue. The Catechism explains: “This very special devotion . . . differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration” (CCC 971).

Historical Context

The Catholic Church underwent significant changes after the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. Martin Luther challenged certain Catholic doctrines and practices like indulgences, leading to a split in Western Christianity between Catholics and Protestants (Britannica). This led the Catholic Church to initiate the Counter-Reformation, which aimed to reform internal church practices and clarify its central doctrines. The Council of Trent was convened, which defined beliefs on salvation, the Biblical canon, and the Eucharist. It emphasized the role of the sacraments, relics, and rituals in Catholic practice. The Catholic Church reaffirmed its commitment to seven sacraments and the authority of the Pope. While both Catholics and Protestants venerated Jesus Christ, Protestants encouraged individuals to establish their own personal relationships with Jesus while Catholics emphasized the authority of the church hierarchy and the Pope as the successor to Saint Peter.

Other Perspectives

Many Protestants have critiqued Catholic worship practices over the years. One common critique is that Catholics worship Mary and the saints, which some Protestants view as idolatry. As one Protestant source explains, “When Catholics pray to Mary and the saints, asking them for blessings and favors, they are worshipping them” (Source). However, Catholics view Mary and the saints as intercessors, not as divine beings worthy of worship.

Some Protestants also argue that the Catholic mass is unbiblical. They believe the Eucharist is merely symbolic, not the actual body and blood of Christ. Additionally, prayers to saints and repetitive rituals like the Rosary seem to some Protestants like empty religiosity. However, these are sincere acts of devotion for Catholics.

While critiques have been made, Catholics and Protestants do worship the same God. As one Protestant source affirms, “Protestants and Catholics worship the exact same God. We both believe that there is only one, eternal God who consists of three, distinct persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Source). Differences lie in worship style and theology, not in the God being worshipped.


Catholics believe in one God that exists in three divine persons—God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. While God the Father is worshipped, Catholics offer veneration to Jesus, meaning they honor and respect him for his divine role. During Mass, Catholics worship and praise God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit through prayers, songs, and the Eucharist. Though they venerate saints and Mary as holy people, God alone is worshipped. While there are differing perspectives, Catholics maintain a strict distinction between the worship owed to God and the veneration given to Jesus and the saints. Ultimately, Catholics direct worship only to the Holy Trinity.

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