Canonization is the act by which a Christian church declares that a
person who has died was a saint, upon which declaration the person is
included in the "canon", or list, of recognized saints. Originally, a
person was recognized as a saint without any formal process. Later,
different processes were developed, such as those used today in the
Anglican Communion, the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church,
and the Oriental Orthodox Church.
1 Historical development
2 Anglican Communion
3 Catholic Church
3.2 Procedure prior to reservation to the Apostolic See
3.3 Exclusive reservation to the Apostolic See
3.4 Procedure from 1734–38 to 1983
3.5 Since 1983
3.6 Equipollent canonization
4 Eastern Orthodox Church
5 Oriental Orthodox Church
6 See also
9 External links
The first persons honored as saints were the martyrs. Pious legends of
their deaths were considered affirmations of the truth of their faith
The Roman Rite's Canon of the Mass contains only the names of martyrs,
along with that of the
Blessed Virgin Mary
Blessed Virgin Mary and, since 1962, that of
St. Joseph her spouse.
By the fourth century, however, "confessors"—people who had
confessed their faith not by dying but by word and life—began to be
venerated publicly. Examples of such people are
Ephrem the Syrian
Ephrem the Syrian in the East, and
Martin of Tours
Martin of Tours and
Hilary of Poitiers
Hilary of Poitiers in the West. Their names were inserted in the
diptychs, the lists of saints explicitly venerated in the liturgy, and
their tombs were honoured in like manner as those of the martyrs.
Since the witness of their lives was not as unequivocal as that of the
martyrs, they were venerated publicly only with the approval by the
local bishop. This process is often referred to as "local
This approval was required even for veneration of a reputed martyr. In
his history of the Donatist heresy,
Saint Optatus recounts that at
Carthage a Catholic matron, named Lucilla, incurred the censures of
the Church for having kissed the relics of a reputed martyr whose
claims to martyrdom had not been juridically proved. And
(died 258) recommended that the utmost diligence be observed in
investigating the claims of those who were said to have died for the
faith. All the circumstances accompanying the martyrdom were to be
inquired into; the faith of those who suffered, and the motives that
animated them were to be rigorously examined, in order to prevent the
recognition of undeserving persons. Evidence was sought from the court
records of the trials or from people who had been present at the
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo (died 430) tells of the procedure which was
followed in his day for the recognition of a martyr. The bishop of the
diocese in which the martyrdom took place set up a canonical process
for conducting the inquiry with the utmost severity. The acts of the
process were sent either to the metropolitan or primate, who carefully
examined the cause, and, after consultation with the suffragan
bishops, declared whether the deceased was worthy of the name of
'martyr' and public veneration.
Acts of formal recognition, such as the erection of an altar over the
saint's tomb or transferring the saint's relics to a church, were
preceded by formal inquiries into the sanctity of the person's life
and the miracles attributed to that person's intercession.
Such acts of recognition of a saint were authoritative, in the strict
sense, only for the diocese or ecclesiastical province for which they
were issued, but with the spread of the fame of a saint, were often
accepted elsewhere also.
Main article: Saints in Anglicanism
The Church of England, the
Mother Church of the Anglican Communion,
canonized Charles I as a saint, in the Convocations of Canterbury and
York of 1660.
Part of a series on the
Catholic canon law
1983 Code of Canon Law
Omnium in mentem
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In persona episcopi
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Canonically crowned images
Computation of time
Delegata potestas non potest delegari
Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
Obreption & subreption
Resignation of the Roman Pontiff
Valid but illicit
Philosophy, theology, and
Treatise on Law
Law of persons
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Clerics and public office
Defect of Birth
Juridic & physical persons
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List of excommunicable offences in the Catholic Church
List of people excommunicated by the Catholic Church
List of excommunicated cardinals
Election of the Roman Pontiff
Universi Dominici gregis
In the Catholic Church, both
Latin and Eastern Churches, the act of
canonization is reserved to the
Apostolic See and occurs at the
conclusion of a long process requiring extensive proof that the
candidate for canonization lived and died in such an exemplary and
holy way that he is worthy to be recognized as a saint. The Church's
official recognition of sanctity implies that the person is now in
Heaven and that he may be publicly invoked and mentioned officially in
the liturgy of the Church, including in the Litany of the Saints.
In the Catholic Church, canonization is a decree that allows universal
veneration of the saint in the liturgy of the Roman Rite. For
permission to venerate merely locally, only beatification is
Procedure prior to reservation to the Apostolic See
Pope Pius II
Pope Pius II canonizes Catherine of Siena
For several centuries the Bishops, or in some places only the Primates
and Patriarchs, could grant martyrs and confessors public
ecclesiastical honor; such honor, however, was always decreed only for
the local territory of which the grantors had jurisdiction. Only
acceptance of the cultus by the
Pope made the cultus universal,
because he alone can rule the universal Catholic Church. Abuses,
however, crept into this discipline, due as well to indiscretions of
popular fervor as to the negligence of some bishops in inquiring into
the lives of those whom they permitted to be honoured as saints.
In the Medieval West, the
Apostolic See was asked to intervene in the
question of canonizations so as to ensure more authoritative
decisions. The canonization of
Bishop of Augsburg by
Pope John XV in 993 was the first undoubted example of Papal
canonization of a saint from outside of Rome; some historians maintain
further that the first Papal canonization was of St. Swibert by Pope
Leo III in 804.
Thereafter, recourse to the judgment of the
Pope was had more
frequently. Toward the end of the eleventh century the Popes judged it
necessary to restrict episcopal authority regarding canonization, and
therefore decreed that the virtues and miracles of persons proposed
for public veneration should be examined in councils, more
specifically in general councils.
Pope Urban II,
Pope Calixtus II, and
Pope Eugene III conformed to this discipline.
Exclusive reservation to the Apostolic See
Hugh de Boves, Archbishop of Rouen, canonized Walter of Pontoise, or
St. Gaultier, in 1153, the final saint in
Western Europe to be
canonized by an authority other than the Pope: "The last case of
canonization by a metropolitan is said to have been that of St.
Gaultier, or Gaucher, [A]bbot of Pontoise, by the Archbishop of Rouen.
A decree of
Pope Alexander III [in] 1170 gave the prerogative to the
[P]ope thenceforth, so far as the Western Church was concerned." In
a decretal of 1173,
Pope Alexander III reprimanded some bishops for
permitting veneration of a man who was merely killed while
intoxicated, prohibited veneration of the man, and most significantly
decreed that "you shall not therefore presume to honor him in the
future; for, even if miracles were worked through him, it is not
lawful for you to venerate him as a saint without the authority of the
Catholic Church." Theologians disagree as to the full import of the
Pope Alexander III: either a new law was instituted,
in which case the
Pope then for the first time reserved the right of
beatification to himself, or an existing law was confirmed.
However, the procedure initiated by the decretal of
Pope Alexander III
was confirmed by a bull of
Pope Innocent III issued on the occasion of
the canonization of St.
Cunegunda in 1200. The bull of
III resulted in increasingly elaborate inquiries to the Apostolic See
concerning canonizations. Because the decretal of
Pope Alexander III
did not end all controversy and some bishops did not obey it in so far
as it regarded beatification, the right of which they had certainly
Pope Urban VIII issued the Apostolic letter
Caelestis Hierusalem cives of 5 July 1634 that exclusively reserved to
Apostolic See both its immemorial right of canonization and that
of beatification. He further regulated both of these acts by issuing
his Decreta servanda in beatificatione et canonizatione Sanctorum on
12 March 1642.
Procedure from 1734–38 to 1983
In his De Servorum Dei beatificatione et de Beatorum canonizatione of
five volumes the eminent canonist Prospero Lambertini (1675-1758), who
Pope Benedict XIV, elaborated on the procedural norms of
Pope Urban VIII's Apostolic letter Caelestis Hierusalem cives of 1634
and Decreta servanda in beatificatione et canonizatione Sanctorum of
1642, and on the conventional practice of the time. His work published
from 1734–38 governed the proceedings until 1917. The article
Beatification and canonization process in 1914" describes the
procedures followed until the promulgation of the Codex of 1917. The
substance of De Servorum Dei beatifιcatione et de Beatorum
canonizatione was incorporated into the Codex Iuris Canonici (Code of
Canon Law) of 1917, which governed until the promulgation of the
revised Codex Iuris Canonici in 1983 by
Pope John Paul II. Prior to
promulgation of the revised Codex in 1983, Bl.
Pope Paul VI initiated
a simplification of the procedures.
Apostolic constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister of
Paul II of 25 January 1983 and the norms issued by the
Congregation for the Causes of Saints on 7 February 1983 to implement
the constitution in dioceses, continued the simplification of the
process initiated by Bl.
Pope Paul VI. Contrary to popular belief,
the reforms did not eliminate the office of the Promoter of the Faith
(Latin: Promotor Fidei), popularly known as the "Devil's Advocate",
whose office is to question the material presented in favor of
canonization. The reforms were intended to reduce the adversarial
nature of the process. In November 2012
Pope Benedict XVI appointed
Monsignor Carmello Pellegrino as Promoter of the Faith.
Candidates for canonization undergo the following process:
"Servant of God" ("Servus Dei"): The process of canonization commences
at the diocesan level. A bishop with jurisdiction, usually the bishop
of the place where the candidate died or is buried, although another
ordinary can be given this authority, gives permission to open an
investigation into the virtues of the individual in response to a
petition of members of the faithful, either actually or pro forma.
This investigation usually commences no sooner than five years after
the death of the person being investigated. The Pope, qua Bishop
of Rome, may also open a process and has the authority to waive the
waiting period of five years, e. g., as was done for St. Teresa of
Pope John Paul II, and for
Lúcia Santos and for Pope
John Paul II himself by
Pope Benedict XVI. Normally, an
association to promote the cause of the candidate is instituted, an
exhaustive search of the candidate's writings, speeches, and sermons
is undertaken, a detailed biography is written, and eyewitness
accounts are collected. When sufficient evidence has been collected,
the local bishop presents the investigation of the candidate, who is
titled "Servant of God" (Latin: "Servus Dei"), to the Congregation for
the Causes of the Saints of the Roman Curia, where the cause is
assigned a postulator, whose office is to collect further evidence of
the life of the Servant of God. Religious orders that regularly deal
with the Congregation often designate their own
Postulator General. At
some time, permission is then granted for the body of the Servant of
God to be exhumed and examined. A certification "non cultus" is made
that no superstitious or heretical worship, or improper cult of the
Servant of God or his tomb has emerged, and relics are taken and
"Venerable" ("Venerabilis"; abbreviated "Ven.") or "Heroic in Virtue":
When sufficient evidence has been collected, the Congregation
recommends to the
Pope that he proclaim the heroic virtue of the
Servant of God; that is, that the
Servant of God exercised to a heroic
degree the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity and the
cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance).
From this time the one said to be "heroic in virtue" is entitled
"Venerable" (Latin: "Venerabilis"). A
Venerable does not yet have a
feast day, permission to erect churches in his honor has not yet been
granted, and the Church does not yet issue a statement on his probable
or certain presence in Heaven, but prayer cards and other materials
may be printed to encourage the faithful to pray for a miracle wrought
by his intercession as a sign of God's will that the person be
"Blessed" ("Beatus" or "Beata"; abbreviated "Bl."):
Beatification is a
statement of the Church that it is "worthy of belief" that the
Venerable is in
Heaven and saved. Attaining this grade depends on
Venerable is a martyr:
For a martyr, the
Pope has only to make a declaration of martyrdom,
which is a certification that the
Venerable gave his life voluntarily
as a witness of the Faith or in an act of heroic charity for others.
For a non-martyr, all of them being denominated "confessors" because
they "confessed", i. e., bore witness to the Faith by how they lived,
proof is required of the occurrence of a miracle through the
intercession of the Venerable; that is, that God granted a sign that
the person is enjoying the
Beatific Vision by performing a miracle for
Venerable interceded. Presently, these miracles are almost
always miraculous cures of infirmity, because these are the easiest to
judge given the Church's evidentiary requirements for miracles; e. g.,
a patient was sick with an illness for which no cure was known;
prayers were directed to the Venerable; the patient was cured; the
cure was spontaneous, instantaneous, complete, and enduring; and
physicians cannot discover any natural explanation therefor.
The satisfaction of the applicable conditions permits beatification,
which then bestows on the
Venerable the title of "Blessed" (Latin:
"Beatus" or "Beata"). A feast day will be designated, but its
observance is ordinarily only permitted for the Blessed's home
diocese, to specific locations associated with him, or to the churches
or houses of the Blessed's religious order if he belonged to one.
Parishes may not normally be named in honor of beati.
"Saint" ("Sanctus" or "Sancta"; abbreviated "St." or "S."): To be
canonized as a saint, ordinarily at least two miracles must have been
performed through the intercession of the Blessed after his death, but
for beati confessors, i. e., beati who were not declared martyrs, only
one miracle is required, ordinarily being additional to that upon
which beatification was premised. Very rarely, a pope may waive the
requirement for a second miracle after beatification if he, the Sacred
College of Cardinals, and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
all agree that the Blessed lived a life of great merit proven by
certain actions. This extraordinary procedure was used in Pope
Francis' canonization of
Pope John XXIII, who convoked the first part
of the Second Vatican Council.
Canonization is a statement of the Church that the person certainly
Beatific Vision of Heaven. The title of "Saint" (Latin:
"Sanctus" or "Sancta") is then proper, reflecting that the
Saint is a
refulgence of the holiness (sanctitas) of God Himself, which alone
comes from God's gift. The
Saint is assigned a feast day which may be
celebrated anywhere in the universal Church, although it is not
necessarily added to the
General Roman Calendar
General Roman Calendar or local calendars as
an "obligatory" feast; parish churches may be erected in his honor;
and the faithful may freely celebrate and honor the Saint.
Although recognition of sainthood by the
Pope does not directly
concern a fact of Divine revelation, nonetheless it must be
"definitively held" by the faithful as infallible pursuant to, at the
least, the Universal Magisterium of the Church, because it is a truth
related to revelation by historical necessity.
Regarding the Eastern Catholic Churches, individual sui juris churches
have the right to "glorify" saints for their own jurisdictions, though
this has rarely happened.
Popes have several times permitted to the universal Church, without
executing the ordinary judicial process of canonization described
above, the veneration as a saint, the "cultus" of one long venerated
as such locally. This act of a pope is denominated "equipollent" or
"equivalent canonization" and "confirmation of cultus". According to
Pope Benedict XIV (regnat 17 August 1740 - 3 May 1758)
instituted, there are three conditions for an equipollent
canonization: (1) existence of an ancient cultus of the person, (2) a
general and constant attestation to the virtues or martyrdom of the
person by credible historians, and (3) uninterrupted fame of the
person as a worker of miracles.
As examples, prior to his pontificate, of this mode of canonization,
Pope Benedict XIV himself enumerated the equipollent canonizations of
Romuald in 1595,
Norbert in 1621,
Bruno in 1623,
Peter Nolasco in 1655,
Raymond Nonnatus in 1681,
Stephen of Hungary
Stephen of Hungary in 1686,
Queen Margaret of Scotland in 1691,
John of Matha
John of Matha and
Felix of Valois
Felix of Valois in 1694,
Pope Gregory VII in 1728,
Duke Wenceslaus of Bohemia in 1729, and
Gertrude of Helfta
Gertrude of Helfta in 1738.
Later equipollent canonizations include those of Saints:
Peter Damian and
Boniface in 1828;
Cyril and Methodius
Cyril and Methodius in 1880;
Ephrem the Syrian
Ephrem the Syrian in 1920;
Albert the Great
Albert the Great in 1931;
Margaret of Hungary in 1943;
John of Ávila
John of Ávila and
Nikola Tavelić and his three companion martyrs in
Marko Krizin, István Pongrácz, and
Melchior Grodziecki in 1995; and
Hildegard of Bingen
Hildegard of Bingen in 2012.
Pope Francis added Saints:
Angela of Foligno and
Peter Faber in 2013 and
José de Anchieta, Marie of the Incarnation, and Francis-Xavier de
Montmorency-Laval in 2014.
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Turkish atrocities in Bulgaria (1876). On 3 April 2011, Batak
massacre victims were canonized as saints.
The following terms are used for canonization by the autocephalous
national Orthodox Churches: канонизация or
прославление "glorification" (Russian Orthodox
Church), კანონიზაცია kanonizats’ia (Georgian
Orthodox Church), канонизација (Serbian Orthodox Church),
canonizare (Romanian Orthodox Church), and Канонизация
(Bulgarian Orthodox Church). The following terms are used for
canonization by other autocephalous Orthodox Churches:
ἁγιοκατάταξις) agiokatataxi/agiokatataxis, "ranking
among saints" (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, Church of
Cyprus, Church of Greece), kanonizim (Albanian Orthodox Church),
kanonizacja (Polish Orthodox Church), and kanonizace/kanonizácia
(Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church).
Orthodox Church in America, an
Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church partly
recognized as autocephalous, uses the term "glorification" for
granting official recognition to someone as a saint—see
Oriental Orthodox Church
Within the Armenian Apostolic Church, part of Oriental Orthodoxy,
there have been discussions since the 1980s about canonizing the
victims of the Armenian Genocide.
List of canonizations
List of Christian saints after A.D. 450 (incomplete list)
List of Christian saints before A.D. 450
Litany of the Saints
^ Kemp (1948).
^ For the history of such canonization, see Kemp.
^ Mitchell, Jolyon (29 November 2012). Martyrdom: A Very Short
Introduction. Oxford University Press. p. 99.
ISBN 9780191642449. In 1660 the convocations of Canterbury and
York canonized King Charles.
^ "Beatification, in the present discipline, differs from canonization
in this: that the former implies (1) a locally restricted, not a
universal, permission to venerate, which is (2) a mere permission, and
no precept; while canonization implies a universal precept" (Beccari,
Beatification and Canonization". The Catholic Encyclopedia.
Vol. 2. New York, New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. Accessed 27
^ August., Brevic. Collat. cum Donatistis, III, 13, no. 25 in PL,
^ Gonzalez Tellez, Comm. Perpet. in singulos textus libr. Decr., III,
xlv, in Cap. 1, De reliquiis et vener. Sanct.
^ a b "William Smith and Samuel Cheetham, A Dictionary of Christian
Antiquities (Murray, 1875), p. 283". Retrieved 4 October 2014.
Pope Alexander III". Retrieved 4 October 2014.
Pope Gregory IX, Decretales, 3, "De reliquiis et veneratione
sanctorum". It is alternatively quoted as follows: "For the future you
will not presume to pay him reverence, as, even though miracles were
worked through him, it would not allow you to revere him as a saint
unless with the authority of the Roman Church". (C. 1, tit. cit., X,
^ St. Robert Bellarmine, De Eccles. Triumph., I, 8.
^ Aimable Musoni, "Saints without Borders", pp. 9-10.
^ "DIVINUS PERFECTIONIS MAGISTER". Retrieved 4 October 2014.
^ "Divinus Perfectionis Magister". Retrieved 4 October 2014.
^ "Devil's Advocate Is Puglia: 'It will test the virtues of aspiring
saints'", la Repubblica, 5 November 2012.
Pope John Paul II, Divinus Perfectionis Magister (25 January 1983),
Art. 1, Sec. 1.
^ Pietro Cardinal Palazzini, Norms to be observed in inquiries made by
bishops in the causes of saints, 1983 Archived 22 October 2006 at the
Wayback Machine., §9(a).
^ Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910–1997), Biography, Office of Papal
Liturgical Celebrations, Internet Office of the Holy See
^ "Sister Lucia's
Beatification Process to Begin". ZENIT - The World
Seen from Rome. Archived from the original on 27 September 2012.
Retrieved 4 October 2014.
^ Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, CMF, Response of His Holiness
Benedict XVI for the Examination of the Cause for
Canonization of the
Servant of God John Paul II, 2005 Archived 5
January 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
^ Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio
Fidei, by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later
Pope Benedict XVI),
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Beatification and Canonization", The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 2.
New York, New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. P. 366.
^ Angelo Amato, "La canonizzazione equipollente della mistica Angela
da Foligno" in L'Osservatore Romano (12 October 2013).
Pope Canonizes Jose de Anchieta, Known as Brazil's Apostle". Fox
News Latino. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
^ "P. E. Hallett, "The
Canonization of Saints"". Retrieved 4 October
^ J. R. MacMahon, "
Beatification and Canonisation"
^ "Почему был канонизирован Николай
Andrey Kuraev at Pravmir.ru (17 July
^ "Прославление святых – это не дело
узкого круга специалистов, это дело
всей Церкви" by Julija Birjukova at Pravmir.ru (9 Dec. 2013)
^ "On the
Glorification of Saints" by
^ Georgios Babiniotis. Dictionary of Modern Greek, Athens: Lexicology
Centre, 1998, p. 53.
^ "What does "Glorification" Mean?" by Fr. Alexy Young
Glorification of Saints in the Orthodox Church" by Fr. Joseph
^ Roberta R. Ervine, Worship Traditions in Armenia and the Neighboring
Christian East, St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2006, p. 346 n. 17.
Kemp, Eric Waldram (1948),
Canonization and Authority in the Western
Church, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Look up canonization in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Texts on Wikisource:
"Canonization", Encyclopædia Britannica, 5 (9th ed.), 1878,
Delehaye, Hippolyte (1911), "Canonization", Encyclopædia Britannica,
5 (11th ed.), pp. 192–193
Beccari, Camillo (1907). "
Beatification and Canonization". Catholic
Divinus Perfectionis Magister – Apostolic Constitution of
Paul II (English)
Congregation for the Causes of Saints – Vatican Website
Historical Sketch of
Canonization – Friarsminor.org
Stages of canonization in the Catholic Church
Servant of God →
Venerable → Blessed
Part of a series on Saints
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General Roman Calendar
Eastern Orthodox calendar
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List of Catholic saints
Symbology of the Saints
Saints in Protestantism
Communion of saints
Congregation for the Causes of Saints
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Servant of God
Saints in Anglicanism
Saints in Methodism