Canonization of saints

In the Catholic Church canonization is the process by which someone becomes a saint. The act of canonization is exclusively the prerogative of the Holy See and only happens after the conclusion of a long process that requires extensive proof that the person to be canonized lived and died in an extraordinary and holy way that makes him/her worthy being recognized as a saint. According to the Catholic Church, the Pope does not decide to make someone a saint, the designation of sainthood only recognizes what God has already done. For centuries, saints were chosen via public opinion. In the 10th century, Pope John XV developed an official canonization process

Martyrs were the first persons to be honored as saints by the Roman Catholic Church. Their deaths were considered to affirm the truth of their faith in Christ and formalization and celebration of these legends served to legitimize and propagate the doctrines of the Church and serve as examples.

The canonization of saints may be taken up as soon as two miracles are reported to have been worked at their intercession and after the pontifical permission of public adoration is granted. The two miracles need to be discussed in three meetings of the congregation. The discussions go ahead in the ordinary way, and if indeed the miracles are confirmed, another meeting is held. The pope then issues a Bull of Canonization in which he not only permits, but also commands, the veneration of the saint.

Since the 10th century, the Roman Catholic Church has applied the standard of holiness of life to particular people who lived exemplary Christian lives. Through a long process of prayer and study it is declared that the person in question is in heaven. After the death of a person, who may be a candidate to be canonized, the local bishop and a panel of theologians at the Vatican and cardinals of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints carry out an investigation on the person’s life for the purpose of canonization. After their approval, the pope declares the candidate honored.

Miracles are considered proof that the person is in heaven and can intercede for our sakes. Two miracles must take place after the individual’s death and be the result of the specific petitions to that individual, before the pope can canonize the saint.

The process of canonization of saints is always lengthy one, mostly taking decades or even centuries before being completed. On the other hand, canonization process has undergone several changes for the past 1000 years with the most recent was initiated by Pope John Paul II in 1983. The pope canonized 300 people and made several procedural changes to the canonization process, including the elimination of the “devil’s advocate” from the review process. The “devil’s advocate” was the person designated to attack the evidence offered in favor of canonization of an individual.

The Canonization of Mother Teresa (who died in 1997) as a saint brought up some issues concerning the rule of preventing the canonization process from beginning  until after five years after the candidate’s death. In 1999, Pope John Paul II waived the five-year rule and allowed the canonization process to commence. And so mother Teresa is now venerated as a saint.