'Becoming' a Saint: a glossary



can 01A candidate is declared a saint, that is, the Church declares what already is...

In official Church procedures there are three ‘steps’ to sainthood: 

Venerable the title given to a deceased person recognized formally by the pope as having lived a life of heroic virtue.

Beatification to be beatified and recognized as a Blessed, usually a miracle attributed to the intercession of the candidate must be proved in addition to the recognition of heroic virtue or martyrdom. A diocese and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints also conducts a rigorous investigation into the person’s life and writings.

Sainthood or Canonizationrequires another miracle after beatification, though a pope may waive these requirements. (A miracle is not required prior to a martyr’s beatification, but one is required before canonization.) 

Blessed titled bestowed on a person who has been beatified and accorded limited veneration. To be beatified and recognized as a Blessed, usually two miracles, acquired through the candidate's intercession, are required.

Canonization the formal process by which the Church declares a person to be a saint and worthy of veneration universally.

Congregation for the Causes of Saints a department of the Roman Curia, established originally as the Congregation of Rites by Pope Sixtus V in 1588. Reorganized and renamed in 1969 by Pope Paul VI, and again in 1983 by Pope John Paul II. In addition to making recommendations to the pope on beatifications and canonizations, it is also responsible for the authentication and preservation of sacred relics.

Miracle an event that can be witnessed by the senses but is in apparent contradiction to the laws of nature. The Church recognizes authentic miracles as a divine intervention in the sensible world.

Petitioner party initiating action in canon law. In the case of a sainthood cause, the petitioner is one who asks the bishop to begin the investigation which could ultimately lead to canonization. (A bishop may also begin a cause on his own initiation.). 

Positio a comprehensive summary of all documentation; in this context, there are two: the one summarizing the investigation of a candidate’s life and heroic virtues or martyrdom and a second for any alleged miracles. The positio is prepared by the postulator with the assistance of someone from outside the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Postulator person appointed to guide and oversee the cause. Oversees the cause at the diocesan level (Phase I); is a resident in Rome and is appointed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, oversees all aspects of Phases II and III.

Promoter of the Faith (‘Devil’s Advocate’) person appointed to argue against the canonization of a Candidate. This role was eliminated by Pope John Paul II in 1983. 

Prefect the head of any of the pontifical congregations, usually a cardinal.

Relator person appointed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to assemble the historic documentation of the particular location and era of the candidate.

Saint the title given to someone who has been formally canonized by the Church, and therefore, offered for public veneration; less formally, anyone, canonized or not, believed to be sharing eternal life with God.

Servant of God the title given to a candidate for sainthood whose cause is still under investigation, prior to beatification.

Vice-Postulator is appointed by the Postulator; promotes the Cause for Canonization of the Candidate. Is responsible to follow all the phases of the Inquiry of the presumed miracle in the Ecclesiastical Curia where the presumed miracle took place. The Vice-Postulator is given appropriate faculties to act in the name of the Postulator at the Ecclesiastical Curia.

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