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In the Catholic Church, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (Latin : Congregatio de Causis Sanctorum) is the congregation of the Roman Curia that oversees the complex process that leads to the canonization of saints, passing through the steps of a declaration of "heroic virtues" and beatification. After preparing a case, including the approval of miracles, the case is presented to the Pope, who decides whether or not to proceed with beatification or canonization. This is one of nine Vatican Curial congregations.
The predecessor of the congregation was the Sacred Congregation for Rites, founded by Pope Sixtus V on 22 January 1588 in the bull Immensa Aeterni Dei .The congregation dealt both with regulating divine worship and the causes of saints.
On 8 May 1969, Pope Paul VI issued the Apostolic Constitution Sacra Rituum Congregatio, dividing it into two congregations, the Congregation for the Divine Worship and one for the causes of saints. The latter was given three offices, those of the judiciary, the Promoter General of the Faith, and the historical-juridical.
With the changes in the canonization process introduced by Pope John Paul II in 1983, a College of Relators was added to prepare the cases of those declared as Servants of God.In January 2014, the Prefect of the Congregation announced that at the direction of Pope Francis those working on canonizations must adhere to financial guidelines to eliminate unfairness in the treatment of cases based on the financial resources provided. According to L'Osservatore Romano , Pope Francis hoped to promote the causes of those less well-known, those from poorer regions, and those who were victims of 20th-century totalitarian persecutions.
The current Prefect (appointed 31 August 2018) is Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, while the current Secretary (appointed 29 December 2010) is Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci. The current Under-Secretary is Fr. Bogusław Turek. The current Promoter of the Faith (Prelate Theologian) is Monsignor Carmelo Pellegrino, formerly a Relator in the Congregation.
The steps for the recognition of a miracle follow rules laid down in 1983 by the Apostolic constitution, Divinus Perfectionis Magister. That legislation establishes two procedural stages: the diocesan one and that of what is known as the Roman Congregation. The first takes place within the diocese where the prodigious event happened. The bishop opens the enquiry on the presumed miracle in which the depositions of the eyewitnesses questioned by a duly constituted court are gathered, as well as the complete clinical and instrumental documentation inherent to the case. In the second, the Congregation examines the documents sent and eventual supplementary documentation, pronouncing its judgment on the matter.
The miracle may go beyond the possibilities of nature either in the substance of the fact or in the subject, or only in the way it occurs. So three degrees of miracle are to be distinguished. The first degree is represented by resurrection from the dead (quoad substantiam). The second concerns the subject (quoad subiectum): the sickness of a person is judged incurable, in its course it can even have destroyed bones or vital organs; in this case not only is complete recovery noticed, but even wholesale reconstitution of the organs (restitutio in integrum). The third degree (quoad modum) involves instantaneous recovery from an illness that treatment could only have achieved after a long period.
In 2016 Cardinal Parolin, under the mandate of Pope Francis, approved new Regulations for the Medical Board of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The Regulations were published and signed by Cardinal Amato and Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci. The current text, explains Archbishop Bartolucci, “is inspired by the previous Regulation approved by Paul VI on 23 April 1976 and, aside from the linguistic and procedural updating, introduces some new elements, such as: the qualified majority, to proceed ad ulteriora to the examination of a presumed miracle, is at least 5/7 or 4/6; the case cannot be re-examined more than three times; for the re-examination of the presumed miracle a Board of nine members is required; the term of office of the president of the Board can be renewed only once (five years, plus another five year term); all those who are occupied with a presumed miracle (promoters of the cause, tribunal, postulators, experts, officials of the Dicastery) are held to secrecy.These "new rules approved by Pope Francis and released by the Vatican on Friday are designed to make the process for approving a miracle in a sainthood cause more stringent, and also to ensure there's a clear paper trail behind who's picking up the tab and how much is being spent."
The decision as to whether martyrs had died for their faith in Christ, and the consequent permission of veneration, lay originally with the bishop of the place in which they had borne their testimony. The bishop inquired into the motive of the person's death and, on finding they had died a martyr, sent their name with an account of their martyrdom to other churches, especially neighboring ones, so that, in the event of approval by their respective bishops, the cultus of the martyr might extend to their churches also and that the faithful, as we read of Ignatius of Antioch in the "Acts" of his martyrdom"might hold communion with the generous martyr of Christ" (generoso Christi martyri communicarent). Martyrs whose cause, so to speak, had been discussed, and the fame of whose martyrdom had been confirmed, were known as proved (vindicati) martyrs. That word probably did not antedate the fourth century, when it was introduced into the Church at Carthage; but the fact is certainly older. In the earlier ages, therefore, this veneration was entirely local and passed from one church to another with the permission of their bishops. This is clear from the fact that in ancient Christian cemeteries there are found paintings of only those martyrs who had suffered in that neighborhood. It explains, also, the almost universal veneration very quickly paid to, e.g., Saint Lawrence, Cyprian, and Sixtus II, who were killed by the Roman Emperor Valerian.
The veneration of confessors – of those, that is, who died peacefully after a life of heroic virtue – is not as ancient as that of the martyrs. It was in the fourth century, as is commonly held, that confessors were first given public ecclesiastical honour, though occasionally praised in ardent terms by earlier Fathers, and although an abundant reward (multiplex corona) is declared by St. Cyprian to be theirs.This is confirmed by the implicit approval of St. Gregory the Great and by well attested facts; in the East, for example, Hilarion, Ephrem, and other confessors were publicly honoured in the fourth century; and in the same century in the West, St. Martin of Tours, from the oldest Breviaries and the Mozarabic Missal, and St. Hilary of Poitiers, as can be shown from the very ancient Mass-book known as "Missale Francorum", that they were objects of a like cultus.
The reason for this veneration lies, doubtless, in the resemblance of the confessors' self-denying and heroically virtuous lives to the sufferings of the martyrs; such lives could truly be called prolonged martyrdoms. Naturally, therefore, such honour was first paid to asceticsand only afterwards to those who resembled in their lives the very penitential and extraordinary existence of the ascetics. So true is this that the confessors themselves are frequently called martyrs. St. Gregory Nazianzen calls St. Basil a martyr; St. Chrysostom applies the same title to Eustachius of Antioch; St. Paulinus of Nola writes of St. Felix of Nola that he won heavenly honours sine sanguine martyr ("A bloodless martyr"); St. Gregory the Great styles Zeno of Verona as a martyr and Metronius gives to St Roterius the same title. Later on, the names of confessors were inserted in the diptychs, and due reverence was paid them. Their tombs were honoured with the same title (martyria) as those of the martyrs. It remained true, however, at all times that it was unlawful to venerate confessors without permission of the ecclesiastical authority as it had been so to venerate martyrs.
For several centuries the bishops, or in some places only the primates and patriarchs,could grant martyrs and confessors public ecclesiastical honour; such honour, however, was always decreed only for the local territory of which the grantors had jurisdiction. Only acceptance of the cultus by the pope made the cultus universal, because he alone ruled the universal Catholic Church. Abuses, however, crept into this discipline, due as well to indiscretions of popular fervour as to the negligence of some bishops in inquiring into the lives of those whom they permitted to be honoured as saints.
Toward the end of the eleventh century the popes judged it necessary to restrict episcopal authority in this regard, and therefore decreed that the virtues and miracles of persons proposed for public veneration should be examined in councils, more specifically in general councils. Popes Urban II, Calixtus II, and Eugene III conformed to this discipline. It happened, even after these decrees, that "some, following the ways of the pagans and deceived by the fraud of the evil one, venerated as a saint a man who had been killed while intoxicated." Pope Alexander III (1159–81) prohibited his veneration in these words: "For the future you will not presume to pay him reverence, as, even though miracles were worked through him, it would not allow you to revere him as a saint unless with the authority of the Roman Church."Theologians disagree as to the full import of this decretal: either a new law was instituted, in which case the Pope then for the first time reserved the right of beatification to himself, or an existing law was confirmed. Because the decretal did not end all controversy and some bishops did not obey it in so far as it regarded beatification, the right of which they had certainly possessed hitherto, Urban VIII published a papal bull in 1634 which ended all discussion by exclusively reserving to the Apostolic See both the right of canonization and that of beatification.
Canonization, in its most exact historical sense, refers to a papal declaration that the Catholic faithful may venerate a particular deceased member of the church. Popes began making such decrees in the tenth century. Up to that point, the local bishops governed the veneration of holy men and women within their own dioceses; and there may have been, for any particular saint, no formal decree at all. In subsequent centuries, the procedures became increasingly regularized and the popes began restricting to themselves the right to declare someone a Catholic saint. In contemporary usage, the term is understood to refer to the act by which any Christian church declares that a person who has died is a saint, upon which declaration the person is included in the list of recognized saints, called the "canon." Today, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion speak of "canonized" saints, in addition to the Roman Catholic Church.
Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the German death camp of Auschwitz, located in German-occupied Poland during World War II. He had been active in promoting the veneration of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, founding and supervising the monastery of Niepokalanów near Warsaw, operating an amateur-radio station (SP3RN), and founding or running several other organizations and publications.
Philomena, also known as Saint Philomena, was a young consecrated virgin whose remains were discovered on May 24/25 1802 in the Catacomb of Priscilla. Three tiles enclosing the tomb bore an inscription, Pax Tecum Filumena, that was taken to indicate that her name was Filumena, the English form of which is Philomena. Philomena is the patron saint of infants, babies, and youth.
Simon of Trent, also known as Simeon, was a boy from the city of Trent, Prince-Bishopric of Trent, whose disappearance and murder was blamed on the leaders of the city's Jewish community, based on his dead body being found in the cellar of a Jewish family's house, and the confessions of Jews obtained under judicial torture.
Saint Lawrence or Laurence was one of the seven deacons of the city of Rome, Italy, under Pope Sixtus II who were martyred in the persecution of the Christians that the Roman Emperor Valerian ordered in 258.
Beatification is a recognition accorded by the Catholic Church of a dead person's entrance into Heaven and capacity to intercede on behalf of individuals who pray in his or her name. Beati is the plural form, referring to those who have undergone the process of beatification.
The process of beatification and canonization has undergone various reforms in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. For current practice, as well as a discussion of similar processes in other churches, see the article on canonization. This article describes the process as it was before the promulgation of the Codex Iuris Canonici of 1983.
Saint José Luis Sánchez del Río was a Mexican Cristero who was put to death by government officials because he refused to renounce his Catholic faith. His death was seen as a largely political venture on the part of government officials in their attempt to stamp out dissent and crush religious freedom in the area. He was dubbed "Joselito."
The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales are a group of Catholic, lay and religious, men and women, executed between 1535 and 1679 for treason and related offences under various laws enacted by Parliament during the English Reformation. The individuals listed range from Carthusian monks who in 1535 declined to accept Henry VIII's Act of Supremacy, to seminary priests who were caught up in the alleged ‘Popish Plot’ against Charles II in 1679. Many were sentenced to death at show trials, or with no trial at all.
A postulator is the person who guides a cause for beatification or canonization through the judicial processes required by the Roman Catholic Church. The qualifications, role and function of the postulator are spelled out in the Norms to be Observed in Inquiries made by Bishops in the Causes of Saints, which has been in effect since 7 February 1983. A petitioner seeking the beatification may appoint as postulator anyone, cleric or not, who is an expert in theological, canonical and historical matters, and versed in the practice of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, subject to the approval of the bishop. The major religious orders, such as the Franciscans, Dominicans and Jesuits, appoint members of their orders as postulators-general who are available to act for petitioners in causes and who develop reputations as experts in their field. The later stage of a cause requires the postulator to reside in Rome, which also favors the assignment of the postulator's role to such a postulator-general, since most religious orders maintain their headquarters in Rome.
Saint Pedro Calungsod, also known as Peter Calungsod and Pedro Calonsor, was a Catholic Filipino migrant, sacristan and missionary catechist who, along with the Spanish Jesuit missionary Diego Luis de San Vitores, suffered religious persecution and martyrdom in Guam for their missionary work in 1672.
Canonization of Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer discusses John Paul II's decision to canonize Josemaría Escrivá, founder of the Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei, more commonly known as Opus Dei.
Devasahayam Pillai, is a beatified Indian layman of the Catholic Church. Born into a Hindu family in the 18th century, he converted to Catholicism and is considered a martyr of the Christian faith. Pillai was an official in the court of the King of Travancore, Maharaja Marthanda Varma, when he came under the influence of Dutch naval commander, Captain Eustachius De Lannoy, who instructed him in the Catholic faith. He is believed to have been killed by the Travancore state for upholding his Christian faith.
Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War is the name given by the Catholic Church to the people who were killed by Republicans during the Spanish Civil War because of their faith. More than 6,800 clergy and religious were killed in the Red Terror. As of June 2019, 1,915 Spanish martyrs have been beatified; 11 of them being Canonized. For some two thousand additional martyrs, the beatification process is underway.
The Martyrs of Japan were Christian missionaries and followers who were persecuted and executed, mostly during the Tokugawa shogunate period in the 17th century. More than 400 martyrs of Japan have been recognized with beatification by the Catholic Church, and 42 have been canonized as saints. Martyrs of Japan can be seen within the context of Christian colonialism and Christianization.
Saint Theonistus is a saint venerated by the Catholic Church. Theonistus is venerated with two companions, Tabra and Tabratha. Medieval documents give accounts of his life, which are contradictory and confused.
The 498 Spanish Martyrs were victims of the Spanish Civil War beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in October 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI. It was the greatest numbers of persons ever beatified at once up to that time in the Church's history. They originated from many parts of Spain. Their ages ranged from 16 years to 78 years old. Although almost 500 persons, they are a small part of the Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War.
Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas was a Palestinian Christian nun who founded the Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem, the first Palestinian congregation. She was beatified by Archbishop Angelo Amato on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.
The cause for the canonization of Pope Paul VI, who died in 1978, commenced in 1993 and he was canonized on 14 October 2018. After having been proclaimed a Servant of God and declared Venerable, he was beatified on 19 October 2014, after the recognition of a miracle had been attributed to his intercession, and declared a saint by Pope Francis I on 14 October 2018.
Maiorem hac dilectionem is an apostolic letter issued in the form of a motu proprio of Pope Francis, dated 11 July 2017. The document creates a new path towards sainthood under the canonization procedures of the Roman Catholic Church, through the path of oblatio vitae. This means the offering of one's life on a premature life for another individual; it is to give one's life as a sacrifice for another.