Faith and tattoos: possible combination? It is permissible for a believer to tattoo his body? But above: it is appropriate to scream “to satanism!” in front of a tattoo on the body?

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Catholic Christianity knows a very clear theology of corporeality that does not find parallels in other religions or faiths. Marked by the baptismal seal, the physical body is immersed in the mystery of passion, death and resurrection of Jesus which is true the symbol that grace impresses on the soul. However, I want to recognize satanic elements in the tattoo, not only is it likely to be an exaggeration, but to reduce the question to a minimum, or perhaps worse in terms of closed banality, until you see evil everywhere, except not seeing it where it really is.


Ivano Liguori, Ofm. Capp.



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Jorge Facio Lince
President of Editions The island of Patmos

For some time to the Fathers de The island of Patmos they came both from young people and from parents, questions about tattoos imprinted on the body. Our Capuchin columnist took care to answer, Father Ivano Liguori, who is working on a short essay on this subject that will be published and distributed in our own shortly Editions The island of Patmos. Meanwhile, we offer you some advances.






“Don't be afraid of tattoos. The Eritreans, already many years ago, they made the cross on their foreheads ".

Francesco I


image of the Supreme Pontiff Francis tattooed on his arm

These are the words of the Holy Father [1] in response to a question from a young seminarian from Lviv, Yulian Vendzilovych, which posed the problem of the current pastoral challenges of the Church within the universe and the world of youth.


One of the issues addressed, in that interview it's the tattoo, now become the status symbol more common than young people Post-Millennials [2] who thus emulate their favorites from the world of sport and music, far more than was the case with the generation of their fathers.


tattoo on arm: crucifixion on Calvary surmounted by two hands holding a rosary crown

It is certainly not a trivial question the one submitted by the seminarian to the Pope, much less does the argument appear superficial as it might be considered at first sight. On the contrary, such a provocation can certainly favor a sincere and enlightening dialogue on the question of the boundless world of tattooing and tattooing.


It's not just the youth world who wants to get tattooed, according to a certain estimate they would be about 20 millions of people around the world want to have a tattoo [3]. Among the Italians - according to data from the National Institute of Health [ISS [4]] updated to 17 October 2019 and disseminated by the Epicentro site - il 12,8% of the population has at least one tattoo, percentage that rises to 13,2% if we also consider the ex-tattooed.


The people of the tattooed includes all age groups: teenagers, young people and adults of both sexes and belonging to the most disparate social and religious contexts.


Saint Pio of Pietrelcina tattooed on a shoulder

Although this topic seems in some ways niche - so much so as not to interest the hottest fashion or costume tabloids - relegating the entire field to specialized magazines, the story is not without its charm, disputes and prejudices, together with those hasty analyzes that suffer from simplistic and often misplaced generalizations. All things from a Christian faith point of view, they demand a clear explanation, adequate and satisfactory to avoid the risk of becoming an impediment to a free and liberating faith.


The tattoo issue, placed in such terms, may allow us to reformulate the seminarian's question to the Pope so as to recall an echo in that ethical question that the rich young man addressed to Jesus [cf. MC 10,17]: “Perhaps we future priests may not even be interested in tattoos. But since our peers who attend the church, who are baptized as we show it off, a clarification is required: it is good for a Christian to have them?”.


Santa Rosalia patroness of Palermo tattooed on a calf

The question, as I took the liberty of rephrasing, it is obviously of a moral nature and the answer must be sought in that eternal good that is also hidden within areas of shadow and human frailty. Intimate and daring places where only God can work and where a good spiritual director can put his hand to it. Let's clear the field of any misunderstanding: it is not the tattoo as an entity in itself that is the subject of dispute but the fundamental option that pushes these body decorations to be made within a discourse of human physicality that is already perfectly harmonious because it reflects the work of God the creator.


Indeed, if Isaiah can speak for the Lord testifying how Yahweh knows man so intimately that he uses the image "I drew you on the palms of my hands" [Is 49,16], that goal seems to be accomplished that identifies the body as a place of writing in which "the skin is a surface on which it is possible to write one's own story" [5], also the one with God and that others can read.


tattoo of the Cross of St. Benedict of Nursia with the dove depicting the Holy Spirit

As happened in the story of the illness of the young Ségolène affected by sclerosis started on the left arm:


"Man needs symbols, I needed a symbol, of a physical sign, visible, of Christ near me. When my arm isn't working properly, this cross gives me the hope and strength to move forward in life, despite everything " [6].


I challenge anyone to judge a sick young woman for his hopeful choice that, acceptable or not, it challenges us precisely in that field which is witness and martyrdom in which so many men and women find themselves living, Christians of our time.


That's why the questions about the tattoo made on a Christian question the baptismal choice which is also totalizing of an already redeemed human physicality. So these are the unspoken doubts to the question put by the seminarian to the Pope: the tattoo brings me closer or away from Christ? It brings me closer or distances me from the ecclesial community? These are the questions to be resolved, without being afraid to go looking for the answers.


image of the passion of Christ crowned with thorns tattooed on a back

We already know from history than Orthodox Christians, Armenia, baked [7], Eritreans practiced the tattoo as a sign of testimony of faith, of participation in the sufferings of Christ and as certification of a pilgrimage [8] happened in the holy places.


Who claims that the tattoo theme is just a legacy of stereotypes of past civilizations, of criminal environments bordering on legality or of a religious world whose guidelines are represented by the simple dualism allowed / forbidden or innocence / sin, would make an embezzlement in the area of ​​intellectual honesty. The tattoo can also be all of this, but it certainly is much more. This world is very vast, so much so that we cannot expect an immediately univocal reading of the problem. It is necessary to define the areas of study, create links, chasing temporal connections, understand the symbols, the archetypes and the subculture of the ancient world that determined the birthplace of tattooing and its practice.


On one thing, however, it is better to agree with Pope Francis: the Christian must not fear anything, much less the tattoo. Because it is Christ who commanded his disciples not to fear [cf. Mt 10,31; 10,28; 14,27; MC 4, 40 GV 6, 20 To 18, 9] and the Church never generates fearful and fearful children from her womb.


Archangel Michael tattoo on one arm

The following study seeks to dwell on history and tattoo culture as well as necessary introductory argument, then going to analyze some aspects concerning the moral and religious legitimacy of the pictorial mark on the skin in the light of the Magisterium of the Church. Some particular themes will conclude the study, like the relationship between faith and tattoos and the debate, still open, among exorcist priests about a certain demonic influence of the tattoo and its spiritual effects. The conclusions of the study will seek to combine theological perspectives with pastoral guidelines. In this sense, I tend to clarify any possible perplexities right away. These pages cannot and should not be taken as a kind of Christian apology for tattooing. Expenses, after reading them, wanted to support such a thesis would be manifestly in bad faith and misleading.


As a Catholic priest and theologian, but, I have a duty to investigate on the theological level even those questions that are found over the line, in those no-man's lands where it is easy to get lost or chase mirages, however tempting, only inconsistent evidence remains.


chest tattoo with Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary

Catholic Christianity he knows a very clear theology of corporeality that does not find parallels in other religions or faiths. Marked by the baptismal seal, the physical body, he is immersed in the mystery of passion, death and resurrection of Jesus which is true the symbol that grace impresses on the soul. An indelible identity seal - sfraghis - who as belonging to God identifies us in the Holy Spirit as beloved children (cf. MC 1,11). Understand this, already from its first developments and implications, it helps the discernment of the person who also comes to give up the charm of having a tattooed sign that, however beautiful and artistically valid, it always remains transitory and the work of human hands. However, I want to recognize satanic elements in the tattoo, not only is it likely to be an exaggeration, but to reduce the question to a minimum, or perhaps worse in terms of closed banality, until you see evil everywhere, except not seeing it where it really is.


Laconi, 15 September 2020




[1] CF. HTTPS://

[2] With this label we refer to that generation of young people born after that of the Millennials (1980-1995), therefore from 1996 on.

[3] CF. Francesco Bungaro, Piercings and tattoos: the body readjusted. In Studia Bioethica - vol. 3 (2010) n ° 3 pp. 39-49.

[4] CF. HTTPS://

[5] CF. B. Andrieu - C. Children, "The Decorated Body" in Mind and Brain, 37 (January 2008).

[6] HTTPS://

[7] CF. HTTPS://

[8] CF.





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Father Ivano

About Father Ivano

Ivano Liguori Dell'Ordine dei Frati Minori Cappuccini Presbitero e Teologo ( Click on the name to read all its articles )

26 thoughts on "Faith and tattoos: possible combination? It is permissible for a believer to tattoo his body? But above: it is appropriate to scream “to satanism!” in front of a tattoo on the body?

  1. Father Ivano, Franciscan peace and good!
    Very enlightening article and above all very balanced.
    Already tonight I will use it in the catechesis meeting with the young people of the oratory.
    Many thanks and good luck to all of you from the Island of Patmos.

  2. it was time!
    I was almost sick of people who combine tattoos and tattooed with Satanism.
    Certain, I would never do certain wallpapers, but not even a small butterfly, however, to see the devil everywhere except where he really is and where he really works seems to me to say the least excessive.

    don Claudio – Monza

    1. I too will take this enlightening article into account in responding to young people on this issue.
      Thanks Father Ivano.

  3. But where are we at? A priest out of his mind (certo father Ariel) that speaks of “moral locked inside a condom” and a Franciscan … (I say Franciscan!) that “bless tattoo” indicated by his father Amorth as a demonic symbol … you have more planned?

    1. Yes, we plan to continue to be priests at all costs, which also costs what it costs in prices and also in gratuitous public offenses, in order to restore idiots like her to faith and reason, who are still creatures loved by the Lord, therefore also from us.
      Read the encyclical Faith and Reason the Holy Father Giovanni Paolo II, instead of going from blog to blog where you talk about satanic nonsense, because the devil is a serious person, very serious, unfortunately!

      P.S. etymology of “idiot”

      "Idiot." (ant. idioto) masculine and feminine adjective and noun [from Latin idiot, from the Greek ἰδιώτης […] - A simple man is meant by an idiot; a rough and uneducated person "

    2. Themselves. Gingo,

      I had the effigy of San Gennaro tattooed on my right buttock then I went to my archbishop and showed it to him as proof of my devotion.
      He approved, he only asked me not to show it to the faithful in the cathedral church on the day when the miracle of the liquefaction of blood is renewed.
      Think that I too am demonic?

        1. Take some “fool” by a priest who ended up in all the Italian newspapers for having beaten up one of his confreres in hospital 70 year old, I dare say it's almost an honor.

          Of, congratulations to the bishop who appointed you dean of the Superior Institute of Religious Sciences, the Italian Church flies higher and higher!

          1. But how good you are! You did your research on the internet, true? Oh yeah, because I put my name and surname, you, instead, you sign Don Ciro, which in Naples and Campania is like saying Brambilla in Milan or Parodi in Genoa. Well, caro don Ciro, if you had read, in the past, an article by your beloved Don Ariel, would you know what tensions we have been subjected to for years in the Diocese of Albenga due to the wicked choices of a certain Mons. Oliveri and you would understand why one, after twenty years of Mass, and after spitting blood since he was ordained he can reach the extreme gesture of raising his hands to the poor brother of 70 year old, which probably would have been better in the country's prisons.
            As for the appointment as director of the Institute of Religious Sciences, you can be sure that I have neither sought it nor I like to exercise it; anyhow, to your knowledge, I have a license in Philosophy, I taught in our seminary for 13 year old, and also, in the past, five or six years at the Institute.
            Faced with such a stupid and vulgar comment like the one you posted, I blurted out, but I know well that on this site priestly charity is very selective and courage too. Best wishes for your ministry.

          2. Dear Brother,

            Don Ciro's answer was published because everyone, as you may have noticed, we give the right to speak and reply.
            The editorial staff approves all comments in themselves as publishable without the need to marry their contents.
            Don Ciro is an excellent priest with a Neapolitan streak of irony, if you knew him personally I am sure you would like him above all for his intelligence and preparation.
            As for the Diocese of Albenga, I confirm what you say: years ago it went through a terrible period with repercussions that hurt the entire Italian Church, you understood that you are part of that presbytery.

            I wish you all good and grace from the Lord for your sacred ministry.

        2. In the Cantico de cantici we read “Put me as a seal on your heart…”
          Don Ciro can sing ” I put you as a seal on my cu ..”
          Poor San Gennaro!

      1. The cardinal blessing the tattooed backside of one of his presbyters.
        Too bad there wasn't a Michelangelo Merisi to immortalize the scene with his admirable chiaroscuro!

  4. Mr. Gingo allow me …
    In addition to the examples presented by the article speaker, you can read the beautiful text by Nuccio d’Anna “Celtic Christianity The pilgrims of light” and you will see that the art of tattooing is practiced by MONKS – Hermits, has had, in that specific spiritual line, not a merely ornamental value but an operative one. A sort of corporal lorica.

    It is therefore a real prayer conducted with the body and on the body of which the author of the text will be able to illustrate the purposes much better than I can, simple reader, that among other things I write a little’ by heart having read the book a long time ago.

    1. Each era has its own complex network of signs and meanings.
      But let's not forget that, in a more recent time, the Nazis tattooed our brothers in the Auschwitz death camp.
      This too should give us food for thought.

  5. Premesdo that “secularly” I think the tattoo has a bad aesthetic taste, The ban on deuteronomy has been applied extensively to tattoos, but rather refers to Canaanite cult practices in which the priests of Baal tore their flesh with spears and swords, also described in the episode of “challenge” with the prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel; said this, the oldest tattoo shop in the world is located in Jerusalem: from the time of the Crusades, here they made tattoos of crusaders and pilgrims both as mementos of the pilgrimage, and because in case of sudden death alone they could be recognized as Christians and therefore have ecclesiastical burial; also in Italy there was the use of the religious tattoo, as a reminder of the pilgrimage to Loreto, where there were said tattoo artists “Marker Friars”. Therefore tattooing should not be considered religiously prohibited, but only according to the subjects: for example tattoos with blasphemous subjects, satanic or obscene are certainly sin, subjects “neutral” or even sacred, however questionable from the point of view of good aesthetic taste, however, they are not sinful.

  6. Thank you for this clarification regarding tattoos… I state I do not like them and on me I would never do… but I never demonized them… despite being very believing… In many areas of the church (and not only by those who frequent Medjugorje… A place very dear to me… ) I have heard that the tattoo is a sign that approaches Satanism. I believe, but, I am convinced that by making an ethical discourse the people who have caused so many evils in the unit are those in suits, shirt and tie and not those who may have tattooed an image on their body to remember a happy moment in their life.

  7. In White Jacket, Melville mentions tattoos, and notes that the Catholics of the crew had crosses tattooed on their four limbs for the purpose, if found dead on the coasts of Catholic countries, to secure burial in consecrated land, while the Protestants did so by saying that they were absolutely certain that in that way, if dropped into water, they would not have been attacked by sharks…

  8. Rev. Father Ivano,

    in 2003 I was diagnosed with right lung cancer and told it was inoperable due to the particular location and other issues not necessary to explain why else matters …
    I have always been devoted to Our Lady of Lourdes but for one reason or another I have never been able to go, I wanted to do it when I got sick but the doctors advised me against it.
    I decided to have an image of Our Lady of Lourdes tattooed on the right side of my chest.
    In 2004 the tumor has disappeared.
    In 2005 the bishop of my city who had learned of the case through the hospital chaplain wanted to speak to me and a few months later all the medical records were presented to the commission that studies miracles at the sanctuary of Lourdes.
    In 2008 I was recognized as miraculous by the Madonna.
    Today I 82 years and every year I go on pilgrimage to Lourdes, i only skipped last year due to coronavirus.
    Excuse me if I don't write well Rev. Father but I think I said what I had to say.

    Maria Assunta

  9. I remember a homily by a priest, native to the sub-Saharan region, about the rampant phenomenon of tattooing in the West.
    He said at one point: ”As my people converted to Jesus Christ, abandoned the custom of getting tattooed ". I believe that the interpretative figure for our civilization lies precisely in this simple observation.
    I am bitterly convinced that in our lands of ancient Christianization the exact opposite is happening with respect to what the African priest noted for his people.. Weakened, or missing altogether, the Announcement, the cult of latria slips inexorably towards objects other than its own. From the One Creator we go towards created goods, and among these there is, obviously, even the human body. Which has become, by now, object of attention, so powerful, to appear even obsessive. And tattoos are only one of the ways of this fascination.
    I told my children: “Getting a tattoo is first of all a mistake. It is often the fatal outcome of a seduction that comes from the world and not from God. It is an attack on the body that follows a dictate that does not come from right conscience. "After that, as I always do when we try to discern, the light of faith, our doubts, I invited them to stay each, alone for a while, near Jesus on the cross. And in the silence of His abandonment, before Him torn apart in His Most Holy Body, wondering if getting tattooed would really make any sense. The answer is now in their hearts as adolescents who walk among so many difficulties in faith.

    1. Then no one talks about the costs of this immoderate attention to one's body. They throw a lot of money away for aesthetic purposes, and the poor do not resign themselves. I helped a foreign teenager who begged for alms for his large family as a child. Well once I gave it some’ more went to get a tattoo on his neck. Is small, he justified himself all happy, it's small and I didn't spend that much.
      The customs, negative or dubious, they always affect the most fragile and the poorest who do not like to feel marginalized.
      Where there is a good dad, like Luca, there is to thank God.

      1. Thanks Maria for your words. Frankly, I don't think I'm a good father. We can only know this at the end. I can only state this today, our duty as Catholic parents is to fight together with our children (sometimes against!). And at the end of the day, get together for dinner, thank the Lord, and say with Paolo:” We have fought our battle, we have finished the race, we have kept the faith”.

  10. Finally a different article, current, useful and balanced. Bravo Father Ivano Liguori.
    Of certain articles wearily and sterile polemical that lately more and more often unfortunately lodge on this site, frankly we would like to do without it.

  11. In past centuries many pilgrims to Loreto used to have a particular tattoo done there as proof of the pilgrimage. Then the thing at the end of the nineteenth century was seen as an uncivil practice and gradually it was abandoned.
    As far as I'm concerned, I find the tattoos horrifying, disgusting and unwatchable. They give me a sense of dirt, dislike, ignorance. They are essentially yet another fashion, started by someone in some Western country believing they were imitating certain primitive peoples and then exploded in this era of prevailing boorishness and idiotic massification.

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