Canonization is the act by which the Catholic Church or another religious denomination declares a deceased person as a “saint”. This process includes the inclusion of said person in the canon, or list of recognized saints. Previously, individuals were recognized as saints without formal requirements or processes. Canonization, whether formal or informal, does not “make” any person a saint: It is only a declaration that said person is a saint and was a saint prior to the canonization process.
The Catholic Church is the only religious confession that has a formal, continuous mechanism to carry out the process of canonization of a person. Currently, canonizations are carried out after a judicial process, called the beatification and canonization process, or simply the canonization process, which is defined as the process that resolves doubts about the sanctity of a person.
History of Canonization
According to some writers, the origin of beatification and canonization in the Catholic Church goes back to the ancient Roman “apotheosis” . In his classic work on the matter (De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum Canonizatione) , Pope Benedict XIVhe examined and from the beginning refuted that theory, stating that the two institutions should not be confused or derived from one another. It is a matter of history who were raised to the honor of apotheosis, in what fields, and by whose authority; no less clear is the meaning that it entailed. Often the decree was due to the declaration of a single person (possibly bribed or lured by promises and with a view to ensuring fraud in the minds of already superstitious people) that while the body of the new god was being burned, an eagle , in the case of emperors, or a peacock ( Juno ‘s sacred bird ), in the case of her consorts, was seen carrying the spirit of the deceased to heaven.
The apotheosis was conferred on the majority of the members of the imperial family, whose family it was the exclusive privilege. Notable virtues or achievements were unimportant. This form of deification was frequently used to distract attention from the cruelty of the imperial monarchs. It is said that Romulus ―the mythical founder of Rome― was deified by the senators, who had assassinated him; Poppea owed her apotheosis to her imperial partner, Nero , after he had put her to death; Geta was given the honor by her brother Caracalla, who had gotten rid of him out of jealousy.
Canonization in the Catholic Church , on the other hand, is only granted to those whose lives were marked by the exercise of heroic virtues and only after this has been proven by a known reputation for holiness and by conclusive arguments. The main difference, however, is in the meaning of the term canonization; the church sees in the saints nothing more than friends and servants of God whose holy lives made them especially deserving of his love.
How is a saint canonized?
The saints, until the fifth century, were acclaimed after their death to “vox populi” (popular acclamation). To avoid abuse, from the fifth century, the bishops took responsibility for the declaration of holiness in their diocese. They confirmed popular acclaim and assigned the saint a feast day, usually the anniversary of his death.
In 993 Ulric of Augsburg was declared a saint in the first directly approved canonization by a pope ( Pope John XV ). Gregory IX formalized the process and in 1234 canonizations were reserved only for the pope. In the year 1588 Pope Sixtus Vhe placed the process in the hands of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and of the Holy Father. There is no precise count of those who have been proclaimed saints since the first centuries. In 1988, to celebrate its 4th centenary, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints published the first “Index ac status Causarum”. This book and the supplements that followed, written entirely in Latin, are considered the definitive index to all causes that have been brought before the congregation since its institution. From his election in 1978 to July 1997, Pope John Paul II had proclaimed 278 saints. Among them are 245 martyrs and 33 confessors. He has also proclaimed 770 blessed during this period, of which 579 were martyrs and 191 confessors.
Why does the Church canonize?
The Constitution Divinus Redemptoris Magister (1-25-1983) says that, “Since time immemorial the Apostolic See proposes for imitation, veneration and invocation some Christians who stood out for the splendor of their virtues.” These men and women are proposed to be: Imitated: the blessed and saints are proposed as models to be imitated; Francisco and Jacinta, bearers of the message that flows from their lives, can serve as an example for all. Venerated: the blessed can receive public worship in their homeland, with images on the altar and commemoration parties; Saints in the Roman Catholic Church.
To be invoked: the Church recognizes that the two children can be intermediaries with God in favor of whoever invokes them.
All the saints and blessed of the Church carried out a common mission: to bring the “Christian life” to perfection. Perfection to which we are all called by the same Lord when he told us: “Be perfect as My Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). We see how throughout the history of the Church, thousands of men and women, children and the elderly have launched themselves to conquer this grace and we in our days are happy to have such a “great cloud of witnesses” who are a sure example. that we can continue on our journey towards perfection.
Steps in the official process of the cause of saints
venerable . With the title of venerable it is recognized that a deceased lived heroic virtues.
Blessed . It is recognized by the process called “beatification”. In addition to the personal attributes of charity and heroic virtues, a miracle obtained through the intercession of the Servant of God and verified after his death is required. The required miracle must be proven through a special canonical instruction, which includes both the opinion of a committee of doctors (some of whom are not believers) and of theologians. The miracle is not required if the person has been recognized as a martyr. The blessed are publicly venerated by the local church.
holy . With canonization, the blessed is entitled to the title of saint. For canonization another miracle is needed, attributed to the intercession of the blessed and occurred after his beatification. The modalities of verification of the miracle are the same as those followed in the beatification. The pope can waive these requirements. Martyrdom does not usually require a miracle. Canonization compromises pontifical infallibility .
Through canonization, public worship in the Roman Catholic Church is granted. A feast day is assigned to it, and churches and shrines may be dedicated to it. Current legislation assumes the need for some miracle, both for beatification and canonization.