The process of canonizing saints is a fascinating subject that has captured the attention of many historians, theologians and the faithful throughout the centuries. It is a long and complex process that allows a person to become an officially recognized saint by the Roman Catholic Church. This process often begins with a careful investigation of the life and virtues of the person proposed for canonization, followed by a thorough examination of his writings, actions, and reputation after his death. The miracles attributed to this person are also an essential part of the canonization process. Saints play an important role in the lives of Catholic believers, who see them as role models of virtue and inspiration for their own spiritual life. This article will explore the process of canonization of saints, its historical origins, its evolution over time, and the criteria and steps that are necessary for a person to be recognized as a saint.
Step 1: The Cause of Canonization
The cause of canonization is the first step in the process of canonizing a person so that he or she is recognized as a saint. This stage is often initiated by the faithful, religious communities, bishops or cardinals.
The cause for canonization usually begins with a careful investigation of the life of the person proposed for canonization. This investigation is carried out by a postulator, a priest or a religious appointed to coordinate and present the cause of canonization before the authorities of the Church.
The investigation includes a thorough search of the writings, teachings, actions and reputation of the person proposed for canonization. The postulator is also responsible for collecting testimonies from people who knew the person proposed for canonization, as well as documents attesting to his life and actions.
Once the postulator has gathered enough evidence and testimonies, he presents a complete file to the bishop of the diocese where the person proposed for canonization died. The bishop then reviews the case and, if he feels that there is enough evidence to justify pursuing the cause for canonization, he can then give his approval for the cause to be presented to Rome.
The presentation of the cause for canonization in Rome marks the end of the first stage of the canonization process. From there, the case is further investigated by Church authorities and, if approved, proceeds to the next stage, which is the Diocesan Inquiry.
Step 2: beatification
Beatification is the second step in the process of canonizing a person to be recognized as a saint. This step follows the diocesan inquiry and is also known as "local beatification".
The diocesan inquiry is conducted by a commission appointed by the bishop of the diocese where the person proposed for canonization died. This commission examines all the evidence and testimonies collected during the first stage of the canonization process and presents its conclusions to the bishop. If the bishop feels there is enough evidence to warrant beatification, then he can send the complete dossier to Rome for further study.
In Rome, the file is examined by a commission of theologians and cardinals appointed by the pope. If this commission considers that the person proposed for canonization has lived a virtuous and exemplary life and that miracles have been attributed to his intercession, it can recommend to the pope to proceed with the beatification.
Beatification is an official declaration by the Roman Catholic Church that the person proposed for canonization is "blessed" and can be venerated locally. It is generally celebrated during a solemn mass presided over by a cardinal or a bishop. The Pope may also declare a feast day in honor of the new Blessed.
Beatification does not yet allow public worship of the person proposed for canonization, but it opens the way to the third and final stage of the canonization process, which is canonization itself.
Step 3: canonization
Canonization is the final step in the process of canonizing a person to be recognized as a saint. This stage follows beatification and is also known as "universal canonization".
For a person to be canonized, he must have been beatified beforehand. In addition, canonization requires proof of the existence of at least two miracles attributed to the intercession of the person proposed for canonization. These miracles must be confirmed by the Roman Catholic Church as genuine, enduring, and unexplainable by scientific means.
Besides miracles, there are other criteria that the Roman Catholic Church considers before canonizing a person. These criteria include:
The heroic exercise of Christian virtues, such as faith, hope and charity.
A life of intense prayer and union with God, reflected in humility, simplicity and obedience to the will of God.
A life of service to others, especially the poor, sick and needy.
The lasting influence of the person proposed for canonization on the Church and on the world, as well as his impact on the spirituality and the life of believers.
The canonization is proclaimed by the pope during a solemn ceremony, which includes the reading of the biography of the new saint, the official proclamation of the canonization and the handing over of the saint's relic. Canonization confirms that the person proposed for canonization is a model of holiness for all Christians and can be publicly venerated in the Roman Catholic Church.
The different stages of the canonization process
The diocesan phase
The diocesan phase is the first step in the canonization process in the Roman Catholic Church. It is initiated by the bishop of the diocese in which the candidate for canonization lived and died. Here are the key steps in this phase:
Opening of the cause: The bishop opens the cause of canonization by appointing a postulator who will be responsible for collecting information on the life of the candidate, as well as on testimonies of miracles or favors obtained through his intercession.
Information: The postulator collects information about the candidate's life, virtues and works. These can be testimonials from people who knew the candidate during his lifetime, historical documents, letters, sermons, writings, etc.
Instruction: The information is examined by a diocesan tribunal which verifies its authenticity and reliability. Witnesses are interviewed and experts are consulted to assess any miracles attributed to the candidate.
Conclusion: At the end of the investigation, the diocesan tribunal drafts a conclusion which is transmitted to the diocesan bishop. If the candidate is recognized as having lived in heroic virtue, the bishop can then request permission from Rome to pursue the cause of canonization.
Transfer of file: If permission is granted, the file is transferred to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Rome, for the Roman phase of the canonization process.
It is important to note that the diocesan phase can last several years, even decades. If the cause of canonization is pursued in Rome, the diocesan phase may be reviewed at any time to verify the accuracy of the information or to add new evidence.
The Roman phase
The Roman phase of the canonization process is the second and final stage of the canonization process in the Roman Catholic Church. It begins when the case file is transferred to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome. Here are the key steps in this phase:
Study of the cause: The Congregation for the Causes of Saints examines the cause of canonization and evaluates all the documents collected during the diocesan phase. This step identifies any errors or gaps in the documentation.
Consultation of experts: Experts are consulted to evaluate the virtues and works of the candidate as well as the miracles attributed to him. These experts can be theologians, historians, doctors or specialists in spirituality.
Voting of theologians: Theologians who are members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints examine the cause and cast a vote on whether or not the candidate can be declared a saint.
Cardinals' vote: If the theologians give a positive answer, the cause is transmitted to the cardinals who are members of the Congregation for the causes of the saints who examine the cause and also cast a vote.
Pope's evaluation: If the cardinals give a positive response, the file is sent to the pope for a final evaluation. If the pope approves the cause, he can then decide to proceed with the canonization.
Canonization: The pope officially declares the candidate a saint in a canonization ceremony. This implies that the candidate can be venerated publicly and that his intercession can be invoked.
Importance of Canonization in the Catholic Faith
The importance of canonization in the Catholic faith comes from the fact that it allows believers to connect with examples of virtue and holiness in the history of the Church. Saints are seen as role models of Christian life and devotion to God, and their lives and example can inspire believers to live their own lives more holy and closer to God.
Additionally, canonization is a way for the Church to recognize the contribution and influence of people who have been significant in the history of the Church and in the propagation of the Catholic faith. Saints are venerated not only for their personal piety, but also for their role in the history of the Church and their contribution to the expansion of the Catholic faith.
In addition, canonization is also important for believers because it allows recognition of the existence and action of God in the world. Miracles attributed to saints are seen as signs of divine intercession and the power of God in the lives of believers. Therefore, canonization can strengthen the faith of believers and encourage them to seek the intercession of saints in their own prayer lives.
Finally, canonization is important because it establishes public worship for saints, which is a form of public veneration recognized and approved by the Church. Public worship of saints allows believers to come together to celebrate the lives and heritage of saints, and to seek their intercession in their own prayer lives.