Maiorem hac dilectionem

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Maiorem hac dilectionem (Latin for 'Greater love than this') is an apostolic letter issued in the form of a motu proprio of Pope Francis, dated 11 July 2017. [1] 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. [2]

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

In law, motu proprio describes an official act taken without a formal request from another party. Some jurisdictions use the term sua sponte for the same concept.

Pope Francis 266th and current pope

Pope Francis is the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State. Francis is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first pope from outside Europe since the Syrian Gregory III, who reigned in the 8th century.


Francis first states that there is no greater love than for one to sacrifice his own life for his friends and neighbors while drawing from a particular passage from John 15:13. He mentions that such an act warrants consideration for the causes of saints since the individual is held as one who has exercised the Christian virtues to an apt degree but do not fit into the established categories of practicing Christian virtues to a heroic degree and the deliberate shedding of blood for Jesus Christ. [1]

Heroic virtue is a phrase coined by Augustine of Hippo to describe the virtue of early Christian martyrs and used by the Catholic Church. The Greek pagan term hero described a person with possibly superhuman abilities and great goodness, and "it connotes a degree of bravery, fame, and distinction which places a man high above his fellows". The term was later applied to other highly virtuous persons who do extraordinary good works.

The Pope therefore establishes five guidelines that must be established for an "oblatio vitae" (the offer of life) path to beatification. The criteria are:

The criteria are still to abide by the Apostolic Constitution of Divinus perfectionis Magister that Pope John Paul II issued in 1983 and by another document issued around that time.

Pope John Paul II 264th Pope and saint of the Catholic Church

Pope John Paul II was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 to 2005.


The question as to whether a fourth path to sainthood could be established arose in discussions amongst the members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at their ordinary congress held on 24 January 2014. The congregation's prefect Cardinal Angelo Amato called this matter into question with the pope during their meeting on the following 7 February. According to Marcello Bartolucci the pope "approved and encouraged" the studies into this fourth path in which a dossier was compiled for further research. [2]

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints 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.

Angelo Amato cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church

Angelo Amato, S.D.B. is an Italian cardinal of the Roman 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.

Marcello Bartolucci is an Italian prelate of the Catholic Church. He has held the rank of archbishop since 2011 and has been the Secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints since his appointment by Pope Benedict XVI on 29 December 2010. He has held several other posts in that Congregation since joining it in 1977.

The congregation held a peculiar congress on 2 June 2016 with several experts present for further discussions including ten consulters and five postulators including the meeting's chairperson Bishop Enrico dal Covolo who was also a postulator. Five questions were put forward as to how the congregation could institute a new path for beatification and the criteria that would need to be put in place so as to enforce it. On 27 September the plenary session of the cardinal and bishop members of the congregation discussed the various dimensions to the overall issue and a favorable vote was cast for this new path to sainthood though the need for an approved miracle was highlighted as an essential feature. The conclusions of this session was sent to the pope in a letter dated on 28 November 2016. [2]

Enrico dal Covolo Roman Catholic titular bishop

Enrico dal Covolo SDB is a Catholic bishop and Italian theologian, Assessor of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences from 15 January 2019. He previously served as the rector of the Pontifical Lateran University from his appointment on 30 June 2010 until 2 June 2018. In addition he was also the postulator of the cause of canonization of Pope John Paul I from 2003 until 2016.

The Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin informed Cardinal Amato on 17 January that the past 10 January the pope had approved the proposals for a new path for beatification while asking the congregation to draft the text for a document to make the approval formal.


Marcello Bartolucci wrote a piece for L'Osservatore Romano following the document's release and outlined the fact that the pope:

"... has opened the path to beatification for those faithful who, inspired by charity, have heroically offered their life for their neighbor, free and voluntarily accepting certain and untimely death in their determination to follow Jesus ..." [2]

Bartolucci further elaborated on the criteria and said that the three other paths to sainthood (martyrdom and heroic virtue as well as equipollent beatification) were not sufficient enough to interpret all potential causes for saintliness in individuals while recounting that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints had discussed whether a new path would be viable.

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  1. 1 2 "Pope Francis creates new category for beatification: oblatio vitae". Vatican News Service. 11 July 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Marcello Bartolucci (11 July 2017). "The offer of life in the causes of saints". L'Osservatore Romano . Retrieved 26 July 2017.