Congregation for the Causes of Saints

Last updated

Congregation for the Causes of Saints
Latin: Congregatio de Causis Sanctorum
Coat of arms Holy See.svg
Coat of arms of the Holy See
Via della Conciliazione din Roma1.jpg
Palazzo delle Congregazioni in Piazza Pio XII (in front of St. Peter's Square) is the workplace for most congregations of the Roman Curia
Congregation overview
FormedJanuary 22, 1588;433 years ago (1588-01-22)
Preceding Congregation
  • Sacred Congregation of Rites
Type Congregation
Headquarters Palazzo delle Congregazioni, Piazza Pio XII, Rome, Italy
Congregation executives

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 . [1] 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. [1]

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. [1] 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. [2] 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. [3]

The former Prefect, Cardinal Giovanni Becciu, resigned on 24 September 2020, and was promptly succeeded on 15 October by Bishop Marcello Semeraro. [4] Since 18 January 2021, Archbishop Fabio Fabene has been Secretary and Bogusław Turek has been Under-Secretary. [5] The current Promoter of the Faith (Prelate Theologian) is Monsignor Carmelo Pellegrino, formerly a Relator in the Congregation. [6]

Current process

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. [7]

Assessing miracles

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. [8] 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." [9]



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 [10] "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., Lawrence, Cyprian, and Sixtus II, who were killed by the Roman Emperor Valerian. [11]


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.

Individual confessors themselves were sometimes called martyrs. Gregory Nazianzen calls Basil of Caesarea a martyr; [12] John Chrysostom applies the same title to Eustachius of Antioch; [13] Paulinus of Nola writes of Felix of Nola that he won heavenly honours sine sanguine martyr ("A bloodless martyr"); [14] Gregory the Great styles Zeno of Verona as a martyr [15] and Metronius gives to Roterius [16] the same title. Later on, the names of confessors were inserted in the diptychs, and reverence was paid them. Their tombs were honoured [17] 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. [18]

Authority to canonize

For several centuries the bishops, or in some places only the primates and patriarchs, [19] 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. [20] 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." [21] Theologians disagree as to the full import of this decretal: either a new law was instituted, [22] 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.

Prefects of the Congregation for Rites

Officials of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints



See also

Related Research Articles

Canonization Declaration that a deceased person is an officially recognized saint

Canonization is the declaration of a deceased person as an officially recognized saint, specifically, the official act of a Christian communion declaring a person worthy of public veneration and entering their name in the canon, or authorized list, of that communion's recognized saints.

Saint Person recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness, likeness, or closeness to God

In religious belief, a saint is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness, likeness, or closeness to God. However, the use of the term "saint" depends on the context and denomination. In Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Oriental Orthodox, and Lutheran doctrine, all of their faithful deceased in Heaven are considered to be saints, but some are considered worthy of greater honor or emulation; official ecclesiastical recognition, and consequently a public cult of veneration, is conferred on some saints through the process of canonization in the Catholic Church or glorification in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Beatification Recognition accorded by the Catholic Church of a deceased persons entrance into heaven

Beatification is a recognition accorded by the Catholic Church of a deceased 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; they possess the title of "Blessed" before their names and are often referred to in English as "a Blessed" or, plurally, "Blesseds".

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.

Forty Martyrs of England and Wales Catholics martyred during the Reformation

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.

José Saraiva Martins Catholic cardinal

José Saraiva Martins, C.M.F., GCC is a Portuguese Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He is the Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, having served as prefect from 1998 to 2008.

Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is the congregation of the Roman Curia that handles most affairs relating to liturgical practices of the Latin Church as distinct from the Eastern Catholic Churches and also some technical matters relating to the sacraments. Its functions were originally exercised by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, set up in January 1588 by Pope Sixtus V.

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 Indian blessed

Devasahayam Pillai, known as Lazarus his baptismal name, 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.

Irmã Dulce Christian saint

Dulce Pontes, also known as Saint Dulce of the Poor was a Brazilian Catholic Franciscan Sister who was the founder of the Obras Sociais Irmã Dulce also known as the Charitable Works Foundation of Sister Dulce.

Szymon of Lipnica

Szymon of Lipnica was a Polish Roman Catholic priest and a professed member from the Order of Friars Minor. He became a sought after and noted preacher and took as his preaching inspiration Saint Bernardine of Siena and also was a strong proponent of popular devotions that he worked to spread.

The martyrs of the Spanish Civil War are the Catholic Church's term for the people killed by Republicans during the Spanish Civil War for their faith. More than 6,800 clergy and religious were killed in the Red Terror. As of May 2021, 1,919 Spanish martyrs have been beatified; 11 of them being canonized. For some 2,000 additional martyrs, the beatification process is underway.

Angelo Amato Italian cardinal of the Catholic Church (born 1938)

Angelo Amato, S.D.B. is an Italian cardinal of the Catholic Church who served as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints between 2008 and 2018. He served as Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2002 to 2008 and became a cardinal in 2010.

Beatification of Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II reigned as pope of the Roman Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State for 26 years from October 1978 to his death, on 2 April 2005. Since his death, many thousands of people have been supporting the case for beatifying and canonising Pope John Paul II as a saint. His formal beatification ceremony took place on 1 May 2011.

Stanisław Kazimierczyk

Stanisław Kazimierczyk was a Polish Catholic priest and a professed member of the Canons Regular of the Lateran. He became noted for his ardent devotions to both the Eucharist and to his personal patron saint, Stanislaus of Szczepanów, as well as for his charitable dedication to the ill and poor of Kraków.

Marcello Bartolucci is an Italian prelate of the Catholic Church. He has held the rank of archbishop since 2011 and was the Secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints from 2010 to 2021. He held several other posts in that Congregation beginning in 1977.

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 on 14 October 2018.

Élisabeth Eppinger German religious (1814–1867)

Élisabeth Eppinger – in religious "Alphonse-Marie" – was a French Roman Catholic professed religious and the founder of the Sisters of the Divine Redeemer.

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 and premature death for another individual; it is to give one's life as a sacrifice for another.


  1. 1 2 3 "Congregation for the Causes of Saints". The Vatican.
  2. "Vatican introduces low-cost saints in the name of austerity". Vatican Insider. 14 January 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  3. "Vatican seeks to cut cost of canonizations". Catholic News Agency. 21 January 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  4. "Rinunce e nomine (continuazione)" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  5. "Rinunce e Nomine, 29.12.2010" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 29 December 2010. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  6. "Rinunce e Nomine, 05.11.2012" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 5 November 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  7. Pope John Paul II. Divinus Perfectionis Magister, 25 January 1983, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
  8. "News from the Vatican - News about the Church - Vatican News". Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  9. "Vatican tightens rules on miracles and money in sainthood cases". Crux. 23 September 2016. Archived from the original on 27 April 2017. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  10. Ruinart, Acta Sincera Martyrum, 19
  11. Duchesne (1903), Origines du culte chrétien (in French), Paris, p. 284
  12. Orat. de laud., P.L., XXXVI, 602
  13. Opp. II, 606
  14. Poem., XIV, Carm. III, v, 4
  15. Dial. III. xix
  16. Acta SS., II, 11 May 306
  17. Martigny, loc. cit.
  18. Benedict XIV, loc. cit., vi
  19. August., Brevic. Collat. cum Donatistis, III, 13, no. 25 in PL, XLIII, 628.
  20. Gonzalez Tellez, Comm. Perpet. in singulos textus libr. Decr., III, xlv, in Cap. 1, De reliquiis et vener. Sanct.
  21. C. 1, tit. cit., X, III, xlv.
  22. Robert Bellarmine, De Eccles. Triumph., I, 8.
  23. "Vatican Cardinal Angelo Becciu resigns from office and 'rights' of cardinals". Catholic News Agency. 24 September 2020. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  24. "Nomina del Prefetto della Congregazione delle Cause dei Santi". Bolletino sala Stampa della Santa Sede. 15 October 2020. Retrieved 15 October 2020.