A 20-page document to be presented in the Vatican on February 18 will ask bishops to show “greater sobriety and rigor” in accepting requests to begin inquiries into a prospective saint’s life.
Initial investigations into the life of a proposed saint take place in the diocese where he or she died. The local bishop must begin the inquiry and oversee the first phase, which produces a dossier of evidence to be sent to Rome.
The dossier is then examined by Vatican officials, who decide whether the candidate merits official recognition. If found meritorious, candidates are then declared “Servant of God,” and their writings are examined to determine if they are in keeping with Church teaching. If this is true, then they are proclaimed "Venerable". Following this investigation, a verified miracle and further examination of their life is required, after which they can be beatified, and given the title “Blessed". Beatification is the last step before canonization, in which the candidate is proclaimed a saint and model for the whole Church.
Cardinal Saraiva Martins said the new document would “respond better to the new spirit introduced by Benedict XVI.” Pope Benedict XVI has emphasized a clear line between beatification and canonization. Unlike Pope John Paul II, who also presided over beatifications, Pope Benedict only officiates at canonization ceremonies and delegates beatifications to cardinals.
The new restrictions are expected to diminish the number of candidates proposed to the Vatican for recognition.
Some critics accused Pope John Paul II’s pontificate of recognizing too many saints, saying the quantity helped devalue canonizations.
Cardinal Martins rejected the notion that the Church became a “saint factory” under Pope John Paul II. He said those who claimed this understood “nothing about saints.”
Last December, Pope Benedict said saints help make the Church’s message “more credible and attractive,” and that the legacy of the saints “purifies and elevates the mind.”
.- The Vatican will advise bishops around the world this next week to be more rigorous in their selection of the candidates they propose for sainthood, ANSA reports.