Canonization proceedings

Canonization proceedings

Canonization in Catholic Church means to sanctify. Canonization in recent canon law is the last papal act by which a servant of God, classified firstly as beatified, is incorporated into the list of saints. By beatification a servant of God is pronounced beatified. Throughout the Ecclesiastical history the form of canonization kept changing and developing. Nowadays, canonization is led in the form of legal proceedings which are controlled by obligatory rules[1] and this demanding procedure usually lasts several years.

Legal proceedings are presently divided into two parts. The first part takes place in the diocese in which the person regarded for a saint died; eventually, the second part takes place in Rome at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (Congregazione delle Cause dei Santi). The basic condition for the initiation of proceedings is the legend of sainthood; thus, the opinion that the dead person lived a saint’s life or died a martyr’s death. Canonization proceedings can start no sooner than five years after death of the given person and it should not start later than 30 years after, unless there are just reasons. The initiator of the proceedings is the proposer, who can be both natural person and legal person, who instigates the initiation of the proceedings concerning the heroic virtues or martyrdom of a dead person. The proposer is represented by a legal expert called postulator. Postulator has to gather the needed documentation and present it to a local bishop who evaluates the whole matter. The diocese bishop consequently asks other bishops in the Episcopal Conference about their opinion and providing there are no objections, he publishes his intent to initiate an inquiry. For this inquiry a tribunal is appointed, which is chaired by the bishop himself or the bishop’s delegate. A promoter of justice, notaries, invited experts such as archivists, historians, physicians and censors also function in the tribunal.

When the preliminary inquiries are concluded, the diocese bishop sends a request for nihil obstat to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints which expresses that there are no objections from the Holy See against the commencement of the proceedings. From this moment on the person whose proceedings take place is called servant of God. Subsequently, the interrogations take place of the witnesses who knew the servant of God or can testify how the contemporaries of the servant of God judged his Christian values and doings. The inquiry of the life and doings of the servant of God is necessary since it determines if his virtues reached the heroic level. Considering martyrs, the factuality of a violent death and the motives of the persecutor are investigated because these must emanate from hatred of faith or from defiance of the moral law. Martyrdom is considered a set of heroic virtues for which no miracle is required for the eventual beatification. This miracle is needed only later for the canonization.

After the diocese part of the inquiry has been concluded, all the documents are translated to one of the languages used at the papal Curia and are sent to Rome. The original files are sealed and deposited in the bishopric residence. Attested copies are sent with a safe conduct to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints where the proceedings continue.


[1]Apostolic constitution Divinus perfectionis Magister issued by the pope John Paul II. on 25th January 1983; Norms of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints Normae servandae in inquisitionibus ab Episcopis faciendis in Causis Sanctorum from 7th February 1983. Norms of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints Sanctorum mater from 17th May 2007, the end of which is to clarify valid laws and facilitate their application.

My greatest support is that I served to God faithfully until the very end.Jan Bula