Beatification & Canonization, The Process


Making of a Saint

Compiled by Msgr. Robert J. Sarno, Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Rome, Italy
All souls in heaven are Saints. Formerly, the Catholic Church declared “Saints” as people who were outstanding in holiness either because they died as witnesses for the Faith (Martyrs) or they lived a life of heroic virtue (Confessors).  The exact number of canonized Saints is unknown because not all recognized as Saints have been officially canonized. For the first half of the Catholic Church’s history, Saints were canonized in various ways.   Today, the process of canonization is very complex and thorough. A record number of Saints have been canonized in the past thirty years, and about 2000 candidates are being evaluated today.


The official process of canonization, called a Cause, does not begin until five years after the death of the candidate.  This period of time permits the Church to verify whether the candidate enjoys a true and widespread reputation of holiness and of intercessory prayer. When a Cause is officially begun the candidate receives the title “Servant of God”.
The first stage of the process begins with the official opening of the Cause by the Bishop of the Diocese where the Servant of God died, and the appointment of a Postulator, to assist in its promotion.  The Bishop then nominates various Officials for a Tribunal, to gather all the evidence for and against the Canonization. Two theologians examine the Servant of God’s writings to make sure that there is nothing in them contrary to the Faith and Moral teaching of the Church.  Afterwards they proceed to taking the testimony of witnesses who knew well the candidate.


The second step toward canonization starts when all the evidence is studied by the Congregation for Causes of Saints in Rome. If the evidence reveals true holiness exercised by the Servant of God, the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation informs the Pope that the Servant of God either was a true Martyr or has lived a life of extraordinary and heroic virtue. The Pope then orders the Congregation to issue the Decree either of Martyrdom or of Heroic Virtue, and the Servant of God is given the title “Venerable”. This means that the Servant of God either died as a true Martyr for Christ or led a life of heroic virtue and, is worthy of imitation by the Faithful.


When the Servant of God has been declared a Martyr he or she may be beatified, that is, declared “Blessed”. If, on the other hand, the Servant of God has been declared to have lived a life of heroic virtue, it must be proven that one miracle has been granted by God through the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God.  Then, he or she is declared “Blessed.”
For a healing to be considered a true miracle, a tribunal to gather all the evidence is established in the Diocese where the event took place.  It must be determined that there is no scientific explanation for the cure and that the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God is proven. The Congregation for Causes of Saints conducts its study and judgment of the cure by the testimony of medical experts that no scientific reason can explain the recovery, and of theological consultants to verify that the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God was requested. Once again, the conclusions are presented to the Pope who alone can declare that the event is a true miracle. Then the Venerable Servant of God may be beatified. When someone is declared “Blessed”, public ecclesiastical veneration is permitted by the Pope but only in the Diocese or Country, or Religious Community to which the Blessed belonged.  Churches may be dedicated to the Blessed but only with the permission of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship.


For all those beatified, both Martyrs and Confessors, to be canonized one miracle is required. It must be proven that this event took place through the intercession of the Blessed and after the date of his or her Beatification.
When this has been proven, the Pope proceeds to the ceremony of Canonization, which is an act of the infallible teaching authority of the Pope. By this act, the Church declares that he or she is a Saint in heaven with God. It also means that the Saint is worthy of public veneration by the universal Church, and held up as a model for imitation and a powerful intercessor for all.   Catholics do not “worship” the Saints but rather venerate them. United in the Communion of Saints the faithful on earth ask the faithful in heaven, who are their brothers and sisters in Christ, to join them in presenting their needs humbly and prayerfully to God.


Please ask Nonco to intercede for your special intentions.  Remember to report any favors received to the Nonco Foundation.  Your favors may seem trivial. Or, it may be something negative about Nonco.  All of your opinions are important.  Please submit any information you have regarding Nonco.  There are individuals trained to handle Causes of Saints.  They will decide.

The Beatification of Martyrs*
The causes of martyrs are conducted in the same way as those of confessors as far as the informative processes and those de non cultu and ad introductionem causae are concerned. But when once the commission of introduction has been appointed they advance much more rapidly.  No remissorial letters are granted for Apostolic processes concerning the general reputation for martyrdom and miracles; the letters sent call for an immediate investigation into the fact of martyrdom, its motive, and the particular miracles alleged. There is no longer a discussion of the general reputation for martyrdom or miracles.

The miracles are not discussed, as formerly, in separate meetings, but in the same meetings that deal with the fact and the motive of the martyrdom.  The miracles (signa) required are not those of the first class; those of the
second class suffice, nor is their number determined. On some occasions the decision as to miracles has been entirely dispensed with.

The discussion as to martyrdoms and miracles, formerly held in three meetings or congregations, viz. the ante-preparatory, preparatory, and general, is now  usually conducted, through a dispensation to be had in each instance from the sovereign pontiff, in a single congregation known as particularis, or special.  It consists of six or seven cardinals of the Congregation of Rites and four or five prelates especially deputed by the pope. There is but one positio prepared in the usual way; if there be an affirmative majority a decree is issued concerning the proof of martyrdom, the cause of martyrdom, and miracles. (Constare de Martyrio, causâ Martyrii et signis.)

The final stage is a discussion of the security (super tuto) with which advance to beatification may be made, as in the case of confessors; the solemn  beatification then follows. This procedure is followed in all cases of formal beatification in causes of both confessors and martyrs proposed in the ordinary way (per viam non cultus).

Those proposed as coming under the definition of cases excepted (casus excepti) by Urban VIII are treated in another way. In such cases it must be proved that an immemorial public veneration (at least for 100 years before the promulgation, in 1640, of the decrees of Urban VIII) has been paid the servant of God, whether confessor or martyr. Such cause is proposed under the title of "confirmation of veneration" (de confirmatione cultus); it is dealt with in an ordinary meeting of the Congregation of Rites. When the difficulties of the promotor of the Faith have been satisfied, a pontifical decree confirming the cultus is promulgated. Beatification of this kind is called equivalent or virtual.

*From:  Beatification and Canonization from Catholic Encyclopedia

The Canonization of Confessors or Martyrs*
The canonization of confessors or martyrs may be taken up as soon as two miracles are reported to have been worked at their intercession, after the pontifical permission of public veneration as described above. At this stage it is only required that the two miracles worked after the permission awarding a public cultus be discussed in three meetings of the congregation. The discussion proceeds in the ordinary way; if the miracles be confirmed another meeting (super tuto) is held. The pope then issues a Bull of Canonization in which he not only permits, but commands, the public cultus, or veneration, of the saint.

It is with the utmost possible brevity that I have described the elements of a process of beatification or canonization. It may be easily conjectured that considerable time must elapse before any cause of beatification or canonization can be conducted, from the first steps of the information, inquiry, or process, to the issuing of the decree super tuto. According to the constitution of this Congregation, more than one important discussion (dubia majora) cannot be proposed at the same time. It must be remembered  that the same cardinals and consultors must vote in all discussions;   that there is but one promotor of the Faith and one sub-promotor, who alone have charge of all observations to be made with regard to the dubia;  that these cardinals and consultors have to treat questions of ritual as well as processes of canonization and beatification. To execute all this business there is but one weekly meeting (congressus), a kind of minor congregation in which only the cardinal prefect and the major officials vote; in it less important and practical questions are settled regarding rites as well as causes, and answers are given, and rescripts which the pope afterwards verbally approves. The other meetings of the congregation (ordinary, rotal, and "upon virtues and miracles") may be as few as sixteen in the course of the year. Some other cause must therefore be found for the slow progress of causes of beatification or canonization than a lack of good will or activity on the part of the Congregation of Rites.

*From:  Beatification and Canonization from Catholic Encyclopedia


Jerry Richard, Chairman
Charles Hardy
H. Allen LeBlanc
Mary Agnes Hardy de la Houssage Belleau
Henry Charles Taylor
Rod Roy
Father John Gary Schexnayder, Canonical Advisor
Father Brian Taylor

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