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Beatification and Canonization

On 05 July 2013 the Vatican announced that the late Pope John Paul II would be made a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. This after Pope Francis approved a second miracle attributed to the Polish pontiff. Pope Francis also decided to canonize Pope John XXIII, who led the church until 1963 during a five-year period of reorganization, even though only one miracle rather than the requisite two had been attributed to Pope John XXIII. The move was seen as a balancing act, as the two popes are popular with different wings of the Church. Pope John Paul II appeals to more conservative liturgically oriented Catholics, while Pope John XXIII, who presided over the reformining Vatican II ecuminical council, appeals to more liberal Catholics who are concerned with the social mission of the Church.

On 19 December 2009 Pope Benedict XVI signed decrees designating Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II as "Venerable" the first step towards sainthood [before beatification, which immediately precedes canonisation]. There are three degrees in the canonization process, to which severally belong the titles of venerable, blessed, and holy - Venerabilis, Beatus, Sanctus.

With the Constitution "Immensa Aeterni Dei" of January 22, 1588, Sixtus V created the Sacred Congregation of Rites and entrusted to it the task of regulating the exercise of divine worship and of dealing with the Causes of Saints. Paul VI, with the Apostolic Constitution "Sacra Rituum Congregatio" of May 8, 1969, divided the Congregation of Rites, creating two congregations: one for Divine Worship and another for the Causes of Saints.

On 19 December 2009 Pope Benedict XVI received members, consultors, postulators and officials of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, for the fortieth anniversary of that dicastery. Saints, said the Pope in his address, "are not representatives of the past; rather, they form part of the present and future of the Church and society. ... The lives of these extraordinary believers, who come from every region of the earth", are characterised by "their relationship with the Lord, ... and by an intense dialogue with Him". The lives of the saints likewise reveal "a continuous search for evangelical perfection, the rejection of mediocrity and a tendency towards total adherence to Christ".

"The principal stages in the Church's recognition of sanctity - beatification and canonisation - are united by a coherent bond. ... The gradual approach to the 'fullness of light' emerges in a unique way in the passage" from one stage to the other, said the Pope. The passage from beatification to canonisation "involves events of great religious and cultural significance, in which invocation in the liturgy, popular devotion, imitation of virtues, historical and theological study, and attention to the 'signs from on high' come together and mutually enrich one another. ... The truth is that the witness of the saints highlights ever new aspects of the evangelical message, and makes them known".

The Apostolic Constitution Divinus perfectionis Magister of January 25, 1983 set forth the procedure for the inquiries which henceforth are to be made by Bishops in the causes of saints and likewise entrusted to this Sacred Congregation the duty of publishing particular Norms for this purpose.

Pope Benedict XIV, in his treatise on Beatification and Sanctification, laid down carefully the rules for proceeding in this holy task. Humanly considered, it is very hard for a holy soul to get into the heaven of the Church. Canonization, generally speaking, is a decree regarding the public ecclesiastical veneration of an individual. Such veneration, however, may be permissive or preceptive, may be universal or local. If the decree contains a precept, and is universal in the sense that it binds the whole Church, it is a decree of canonization; if it only permits such worship, or if it binds under precept, but not with regard to the whole Church, it is a decree of beatification.

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