Published Thursday, July 18, 2013
Procedures established by the popes. In modern times, Pope John Paul II established procedures that guide inquiries leading to declaring a person blessed or a saint. He gave the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints the faculty to establish norms for inquiries about the life, virtues and reputation of holiness and of intercessory power of someone whose cause is being investigated for saintliness. The congregation also considers alleged miracles attributed to the intercession of the one being studied.
Thorough investigation. A petitioner (a bishop, diocese, parish, clerical or lay association of the faithful, institute of consecrated or religious life, or individual Catholic) promotes the cause and assumes moral and financial obligations. A postulator (an expert in theology, canon law and history) is chosen. That person collects documentation for the local bishop in the place where the person died, gathering all information, including any information contrary to the designation of holiness. All writings of the person are gathered and studied. Witnesses who knew the person are called. Experts testify under oath. Theological censors review any texts, published or unpublished, written by the candidate. Public notice is given of the inquiry.
Authentic holiness and reputation of intercessory power established. Before initiating a cause the bishop must verify that the Servant of God enjoys an authentic and widespread reputation of holiness or martyrdom as well as an authentic and widespread reputation of intercessory power. This reputation must be spontaneous, stable, continuous and widespread. The reputation of holiness is the opinion that has spread among the faithful about the purity and integrity of life of the Servant of God and about the virtues practiced by the candidate to an heroic degree … The reputation of intercessory power is the opinion that has spread among the faithful about the graces and favors received from God through the intercession of the Servant of God.
Declaration of heroic virtues. If the cause is then determined to be worthy of further consideration, and sent to and approved by the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, the candidate may be referred to as “Servant of God.” As the investigation and the passage of time continue, the next step is the declaration of a person’s heroic virtues. The church declares the person “Venerable.”
Beatification. The next stage is beatification, after which the candidate is called “Blessed.”
Canonization. The final stage is canonization, or the declaration of sainthood. In general, two miracles must be accepted by the church as having occurred through the intercession of the prospective saint; one must occur before beatification and the other after beatification.