Saints are God’s gifts to the Church. Their lives are touched by Him and given to us for emulation. They are examples both for the world and the Church. The Church does not make saints. It only acknowledges the holiness of those people who lived an exemplary life. The Church desires that this acknowledgement process must be done without any blemish. Thus, regulations are given by the Church on the basis of wisdom and practice of centuries. Here we briefly describe the various steps involved in the Canonization process.
The Church had saints from the very beginning and we may need only to recall the Roman persecution in order to know of the thousands of holy martyrs and saints. In 6-12 centuries, the local bishops themselves led the canonization process, when an exemplary Christian was spontaneously venerated as a saintly person. Although there were steps to regulate Canonization process in the Fr. Paul Pulikkan, Postulator, Cause of Canonization, Fr. Antony Thachuparambil Middle Ages, it was Pope Sixtus V who established in 1588, the Congregation for the Canonization of Saints. The important documents that instruct on the Canonization process are the Apostolic Constitution Divinus perfectionis Magister given by Pope John Paul II on Jan 25 1983 and the Guidelines published by the Congregation for the Cause of Saints on Feb. 7.1983. On Feb 18, 2008 the same Congregation issued Sanctorum Mater which regulates the Canonization process at the diocesan phase. Normally, this process starts only 5 years after the death of the person, considered for Canonization. In special cases, the Pope can start it even before. - Blessed John Paul’s Cause was started just 42 days after his death.
I. The diocesan phase of Canonization
The petitioner, who wants to initiate the Cause of Canonization, appoints the Postulator, with the permission of the bishop of the diocese where the person, considered for Canonization is buried. The Diocesan Postulator, as the representative of the petitioner, oversees the Canonization process and looks into the financial and administrative affairs of the Cause. A. Enquiry into the life and virtues of the person, considered for Canonization
The Postulator submits a Libellus (Request) to the diocesan bishop to start the Canonization process. He has to submit the following documents in this Libellus: a brief life history of the said person, a short report on the fame of his/her holiness, on the virtues and on the intercessory power of the said person. Postulator has also to point out if there is anything that stands as a barrier to the Canonization process. He also submits the books written by the said person and submits a list of those who can give more information on the life, virtues and the intercessory power of the person considered for the process. Before officially accepting the Libellus, the diocesan bishop gets the Nihil Obstat (no objection certificate) from the Congregation for the Cause of Saints in Rome, which if satisfied, allows the Cause to proceed, giving a specific protocol number for the same. The bishop also makes the consultation with the Bishops’ Synod (regional Bishops’ Conference). Then, the bishop can officially accept the Libellus. He makes it known officially that he has accepted the Request. From that day onwards, the said person will be called Servant of God. The bishop asks the faithful to submit to him all testimonies and valuable things associated to the life of the Servant of God. He may also ask the faithful to submit any information that may altogether block the process. If there are serious reasons, the whole process can be stopped bythe bishop. more