In general, the recognition of the excellence and superiority of another, together with a manifestation of the reverence and esteem in which that recognition is expressed. Cult, understood in this broad sense, is exercised in the practice of the virtues of religion, piety, and observance. But the term is more commonly used in reference to the latria that the virtue of religion gives to God alone, or the hyperdulia and dulia accorded, respectively, to the Blessed Virgin and the saints, or the veneration of sacred images, relics, etc. (see worship; saints, devo tion to the; images, veneration of.)
The 1917 Code of Canon Law distinguished between public and private cult; it is public if it is carried on in the name of the Church by persons legitimately designated to do so and by the performance of acts that, according to the institution of the Church, are referable only to God, the saints, and the beatified; otherwise it is private (1917 CIC c.1256). Since the time of Urban VIII the Church has insisted that no public cult be given to anyone except those who have a rightful place on the list of the saints or the beatified. Indeed one of the steps in the existing procedure in causes of beatification and canonization consists of processes de non cultu, or investigations aimed at proving that the prohibition by Urban VIII of public cult before beatification has been observed.
[p. k. meagher]