Saturday, January 31, 2015


The formal case for the canonization of Roberto Clemente will soon be available in both English and Spanish and will address the Biblical and theological justifications, answer common objections and misconceptions, and discuss the miraculous  aspects of his saintly life.

The process of canonization is as follows:

Anyone who is a Christian, (not necessarily an exclusively Catholic Christian), can be named a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. Also, it only takes the Bishop of the candidates home diocese where he died (San Juan, P.R.) to submit a request to Rome for the Canonization process to begin.  In rare cases, if the home diocese is not diligent to begin the process it can be started by the Pope.  The complete process for the induction of a new Saint is as follows:  On September 12, 1997, through the Vatican Information Service, the Holy See Press Office in Vatican City made public the following note on canonical procedure for causes of beatification and canonization:

1. Canon norms regarding the procedure to be followed for causes of saints are contained in the Apostolic Constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister, promulgated by John Paul II on January 25, 1983.

2. To begin a cause it is necessary for at least 5 years to have passed since the death of the candidate. This is to allow greater balance and objectivity in evaluating the case and to let the emotions of the moment dissipate.

3. The bishop of the diocese in which the person whose beatification is being requested died is responsible for beginning the investigation. The promoter asks the bishop for the opening of the investigation. The bishop, once the nulla osta (no impediment) of the Holy See is obtained, forms a diocesan tribunal for this purpose. Witnesses are called before the tribunal to recount concrete facts on the exercise of Christian virtues considered heroic, that is, the theological virtues: faith, hope and charity, and the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, and others specific to his/her state in life. In addition, all documents regarding the candidate must be gathered. At this point he/she is entitled to the title of Servant of God.

4. Once the diocesan investigation is finished, the acts and documentation are passed on to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The public copy used for further work is put together here. The postulator, resident in Rome, follows the preparation of the summary of the documentation that proves the heroic exercise of virtue, under the direction of a relator of the Congregation. The Positio undergoes an examination (theological) by nine theologians who give their vote. If the majority of the theologians are in favor, the cause is passed on for examination by cardinals and bishops who are members of the congregation. They hold meetings twice a month. If their judgment is favorable, the prefect of the congregation presents the results of the entire course of the cause to the Holy Father, who gives his approval and authorizes the congregation to draft the relative decree. The public reading and promulgation of the decree follows.

5. For the beatification of a confessor a miracle attributed to the Servant of God, verified after his/her death, is necessary. The required miracle must be proven through the appropriate canonical investigation, following a procedure analogous to that for heroic virtues. This one too is concluded with the relative decree. Once the two decrees are promulgated (regarding the heroic virtues and the miracle) the Holy Father decides on beatification, which is the concession of public honor, limited to a particular sphere. With beatification the candidate receives the title of Blessed.

6. For canonization another miracle is needed, attributed to the intercession of the Blessed and having occurred after his/her beatification. The methods for ascertainment of the affirmed miracle are the same as those followed for beatification. Canonization is understood as the concession of public worship in the Universal Church. Pontifical infallibility is involved. With canonization, the Blessed acquires the title of Saint. 

This information is found in the Apostolic Constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister, promulgated by John Paul II on January 25, 1983.  There is no actual rule against a non-Catholic becoming a saint, the issue is that the Bishop of the candidate would need to begin the process. And if, for example, a Presbyterian Bishop were to submit a candidate for Canonization to Rome, that would imply that even non-Catholic denominations of Christianity are subservient to the Most Holy Pontiff and the Holy See.

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