saint is a person so grasped by a religious vision that it becomes central to his or her life in
a way that radically changes the person and leads others to glimpse the value of that vision.
S. Cunningham, The Meaning of Saints (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1980), 65.
How Does the Catholic Church Declare Saints?
to the provisions of the apostolic constitution Divinus perfectionis magister and its Normae (promulgated on 25 January and
07 February 1983 respectively), a beatification cause may be initiated by a petitioner five years after the death in fama
sanctitatis (with reputation for holiness) or in odium fidei, uti fertur (presumably killed out of hatred for the faith) of
one or a group of professed Catholics. This petitioner, or actor, may be an individual or, as commonly practiced, a group
(e.g., a parish, a religious congregation, a diocese, an association of lay faithful, or even a civil body) duly recognized
by ecclesiastical authorities whose task is to finance and promote this enterprise. However, the pope himself could waive
the required five-year waiting period, as in the case of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and John Paul II. The
actor must name a postulator who must be duly recognized by the bishop of the diocese where the Servant/s of God died (canonically
referred to as the competent bishop). A postulator is the lawyer of the cause and representative of the actor before the Congregation
of the Causes of Saints (CCS), the Vatican office that has direct jurisdiction over such matters. He/she may also appoint
a vice-postulator who acts in his/her behalf within the diocese . It is the task of the actor, through the postulator, to
request the competent bishop to launch a formal diocesan inquest into his/her/their life. On the same time, the CCS designates
a protocol number to refer to the case. In case the bishop of another diocese were to act, for a legitimate reason, as the
competent bishop for the cause of someone who died outside the jurisdiction of his territory, he would have to obtain
the decree competentia fori from the CCS. Divinus perfectionis requires the competent bishop to consult with
the bishops of his ecclesiastical region on the appropriateness of initiating the cause. He must also publicly publish the
petition of the postulator and invite the faithful to report to him any information they may have on the Servant/s of God.
Then, should he decide to officially initiate the cause, the competent bishop must assign two theologian-censors to examine
both published and unpublished writings of the Servant/s of God . A favorable opinion from them is necessary to proceed with
the cause. After this, he assigns a promoter of justice whose task is to draw up a questionnaire for witnesses
based on everything that has been collected concerning the cause. Finally, the competent bishop must obtain from the CCS the
decree nihil obstat, which would certify that nothing in the records of any Vatican office would merit a suspension of the
investigation. After obtaining the nihil obstat, the competent bishop or his delegate summons and examines witnesses before a diocesan
tribunal. The witnesses include those brought in by the postulator as eyewitnesses to the life of the Servant/s of God as
well as those who had examined his/her/their writings. They will be examined using primarily (but not exclusively) the questionnaire
drawn by the promoter of justice. After this, the competent bishop must also ascertain that there is no public cult accorded
to the Servant/s of God in his/her/their burial place or sleeping quarters. When the diocesan inquest is accomplished,
two faithful copies of all its acts, the so-called transumptum, are sent to the CCS. At this point, the CCS ascertains the
decree on validity of the diocesan inquest. Having done this, the congregation appoints a relator to the cause. An official
from the CCS, the relator’s task is to supervise the writing and publication of the positio by a collaborator (who may
or may not be the postulator himself/herself). The positio has two essential parts:(1) the informatio, a critical biography
of the Servant/s of God based on the transumptum; and (2) the summarium, a collation of the testimonies of the witnesses during
the diocesan inquest and documents relative to the life of the Servant/s of God. It will be examined by three different bodies
of experts - historians, theologians, and prelates - who work for the CCS and whose votes would determine the final outcome
of the cause. When these three bodies unanimously give a favorable decision on the positio, the CCS draws up a decree on the
heroic virtues or martyrdom of the Servant/s of God. Normally, this decree is formally read and promulgated before the pope
in a public audience. From then on, the Servant/s of God begins to be referred to as Venerable. In the case of martyrs, what follows is
the designation of the date for the solemn beatification. For non-martyrs, however, another decree is needed. The Vatican
requires that one exceptional miracle be proven to have been wrought through the venerable's intercession. When this is found,
the postulator and the bishop of the diocese where the miracle occurred must petition the CCS to authorize its investigation.
All records gathered during this inquiry are to be sent to the CCS, which then appoints a body of qualified physicians or
scientists, the consulta medica, to judge its extraordinariness. A favorable judgment from this body is presented to the theologians
and prelates of the CCS. The pope who formalizes his recognition of the miracle through a decree. Only then can the non-martyr's
beatification be finally scheduled. The beatification normally takes place in Rome. Pope John Paul II
celebrated many of these rites in the country where the candidate for beatification lived, labored, or died. From 1971 to
2004, the pope himself has officiated this ceremony. Until then, a cardinal appointed by the pope presided over the rite.
After the solemn act, the venerable is referred to as Blessed. However, his/her/their cult is canonically limited within a
particular ecclesiastical jurisdiction or religious community. For the blessed to be canonized, the actor
of the cause must again find one more exceptional miracle that took place after the beatification. The very procedure for
investigating a miracle before the beatification is to be repeated. When the decree over this miracle is promulgated, a special
consistory consisting of the pope and cardinals is later called to determine the date of canonization itself. After this ceremony
takes place, the blessed is henceforth to be called Saint and is presented to the entire church for veneration and emulation.
Source: The Hagiography Circle