July 22, 2017

The Process of Canonization in the Catholic Church

Saint Peter's Basilica

(While many saints are canonized by the Church, most are known only to God.)

The process of documenting the life and virtues of a holy man or woman cannot begin until five years after his or her death; this insures that the person has an enduring reputation for sanctity among the faithful.

The pope may waive the waiting period.

The bishop of the diocese in which the person died can petition the Holy See to allow the initialization of a Cause for Beatification and Canonization. If there is no objection by a department of the Roman Curia, permission is communicated to that bishop.

When the cause begins, the individual is called a “Servant of God.” Testimony about the life and virtues of the person are gathered, and his or her writings are examined.

This documentary phase of the process can take years and concludes with the judgment of a diocesan tribunal and the decision of the bishop that the heroic virtues of the servant of God have or have not been demonstrated. The results, along with the documentation, are sent to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints for scrutiny.

Once the pope has recognized the person’s heroic virtues, he or she is called “venerable.”

A miracle must then be approved, evidence of the intercessory power of the venerable servant of God and thus of his or her union after death with God. (In cases of martyrdom the miracle required for beatification can be waived.)

With the pope’s approval of a Decree of a Miracle, the servant of God can be beatified, and the Church looks for a second miracle before proceeding to canonization.

By the Rite of Canonization, the pope elevates a person to the universal veneration of the Church, declaring that the person is with God and is an example of following Christ and worthy of imitation by the faithful. (Source)

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