CATHOLIC CHURCH PROCESS FOR BEATIFICATION & CANNONIZATION
Saints are examples of how to follow Jesus Christ in
every circumstance. "In the lives of those who shared in our humanity
and yet were transformed into especially successful images of Christ,
God vividly manifests to men his presence and his face. He speaks to
us in them, and gives us a sign of his Kingdom, to which we are powerfully
drawn, surrounded as we are by so many witnesses ( cf. Hebrews 12,1).
Pope John Paul II Role in Canonization
Pope John Paul II has been proactive in encouraging the work of the
Vatican congregation with the task of studying the recorded history
of the lives of those with reputed
extraordinary holiness. Thus, more saints have been added to the Church's listing
(canon of saints) during Pope John Paul II's pontificate. Our Holy Father’s
has a great desire to see those of extraordinary holiness duly recognized for
their inspiring holiness. He has been particularly conscious of encouraging the
examination of the lives of lay people who were noted for their holiness, so
that the Church's liturgical life can be enriched by the models of marriage,
family life, or the single life which holy lay people offer. While the pope plays
a key role in the canonization process, as the one who issues the ultimate decree
of canonization, there are many other significant moments in the process that
precede the pope's final affirmation in the matter.
Recognition of a Saint
The bishop of the diocese in which the person whose beatification is being requested
died is responsible for beginning the investigation. The promoter group ('Actor
Causae'): diocese, parish, religious congregation, association, asks the bishop
through the postulator for the opening of the investigation. The bishop, once
the 'nulla osta' of the Holy See is obtained, forms a diocesan tribunal for this
purpose. Witnesses are called before the tribunal to recount concrete facts on
the exercise of Christian virtues considered heroic, that is, the theological
virtues: faith, hope and charity, and the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice,
temperance and fortitude, and others specific to his state in life. In addition,
all documents regarding the candidate must be gathered. At this point he is entitled
to the title of Servant of God.
Opening of a cause for Canonization
Once the diocesan investigation is finished, the acts and documentation
are passed on to the Congregation
for the Causes of Saints
. The public copy used for further work is put together
here. The postulator, resident in Rome, follows the preparation of the 'Positio',
or summary of the documentation that proves the heroic exercise of virtue, under
the direction of a relator of the Congregation. The 'Positio' undergoes an examination
(theological) by nine theologians who give their vote. If the majority of the
theologians are in favor, the cause is passed on for examination by cardinals
and bishops who are members of the congregation. They hold meetings twice a month.
If their judgment is favorable, the prefect of the congregation presents the
results of the entire course of the cause to the Holy Father, who gives his approval
and authorizes the congregation to draft the relative decree.
For the beatification of a confessor a miracle attributed to the Servant of God,
verified after his death, is necessary. The required miracle must be proven through
the appropriate canonical investigation, following a procedure analogous to that
for heroic virtues. This one too is concluded with the relative decree. Once
the two decrees are promulgated (regarding the heroic virtues and the miracle)
the Holy Father decides on beatification, which is the concession of public worship,
limited to a particular sphere. With beatification the candidate receives the
title of Saint.
If the candidate was martyred, a miracle need not be sought. If the candidate
did not die as a martyr, then one miracle after death must be proven, through
the scrutiny of a body of medical experts. After the beatification takes place,
the candidate can be called Saint and the local church may offer veneration.
One who has been beatified by the Church is considered particularly Saint by
God and therefore worthy of a certain degree of veneration by the faithful. This
permission to venerate is a much more limited scope though than what would ultimately
be granted by virtue of canonization. Public reverence of one who is titled "Saint" can
be permitted in restricted circumstances, but ordinarily public prayers in his
or her honor, or Masses with prayers that make reference to the one beatified
are permitted only in special cases and in rather localized circumstances
For canonization, another miracle is needed, attributing to the intercession
of the Saint and having occurred after the beautification. The methods for
ascertainment of the affirmed miracle are the same as those followed for beautification.
Canonization is understood as the concession of public worship in the Catholic
Church. Pontificate infallibility is involved. With canonization, the Saint
acquires the title of “SAINT”.