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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.

There are three degrees in the canonization process, to which severally belong the titles of venerable, blessed, and holy, - Venerabilis, Beatus, Sanctus. All who die in "the odor of sanctity" are honored with the name of "Venerabiles," which gives them only the general right to the respect and gratitude of the faithful. Beatification is the preliminary to "Sanctification." The large company of the Beati alone is privileged to offer recruits for the highest rank in the hierarchy. The title of Venerable is, strictly speaking, only applied to a person after the Supreme Pontiff has signed what is called the Commission of Introduction, and which is addressed to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. By this act the fame of a person's sanctity is affirmed to have been judicially proved, and the whole case is taken out of the cognisance of the local Bishops and Ordinaries, and placed under the jurisdiction of the Holy See, but no authorisation is thereby given to the permission of any worship of the person called Venerable.

Servants of God whose cause has only been introduced must not as formerly be called Venerable (can. 2084), a title which is to be given only after the publication of the papal decree declaring that the requisite virtues have been practised in a heroic degree or that the fact of martyrdom has been established (can. 2115). It should be remembered that the title "Venerable" never authorizes public veneration.

After the cause has been introduced and the remissorial letters (C. E., II-368a) have been received, the tribunal of investigation must begin its sessions within three months and complete its work within two years from the date of reception of the letters (can. 2095). The discussion concerning the validity of the information and the Apostolic processes takes place in the presence of the cardinal prefect and three other cardinals of the Congregation of Rites selected by the pope, and of the cardinal relator, the secretary, the prothonotary Apostolic, the general promoter of the Faith, and the subpromotor, and the decision is given by the cardinals just mentioned (can. 2100). In the third or general meeting to discuss the degree of virtue practised by a confessor or the fact and cause of martyrdom, the consultors, prelates, and cardinals have only a consultive vote, the decision being reserved to the pope (can. 2114).

The procedure of canonization is loaded with many formalities, of which the historical explanation lies in the tribunals of the ancient system, and which considerably delay the progress of the causes. The first decisive step is the introduction of the cause. If, by the advice of the cardinals who have examined the documents, the pope pronounce his approval, the servant of God receives the title of "Venerable," but is not entitled to any manifestation of cultus.

Only in the event of the claimant passing this test successfully can the essential part of the procedure be begun, which will result in conferring on the Venerable the title of "Blessed." This part consists in three distinct proceedings: (i) to establish a reputation for sanctity, (2) to establish the heroic quality of the virtues, (3) to prove the working of miracles. A favorable judgment on all three of these tests is called the decree de tuto, by which the pope decides that they may safely proceed to the solemn beatification of the servant of God (Tuto proced polest ad solemnem V.S.D.N. beatificationem). In the ceremony of beatification the essential part consists in the reading of the pontifical brief, placing the Venerable in the rank of the Blessed, which is done during a solemn mass, celebrated with special rites in the great hall above the vestibule of the basilica of St Peter.

The process of canonization, which follows that of beatification, is usually less lengthy. It consists principally in the discussion of the miracles (usually two in number) obtained by the intercession of the Blessed since the decree of beatification. After a great number of formalities and prayers, the pope pronounces the sentence, and indicates eventually the day on which he will proceed to the ceremony of canonization, which takes place with great solemnity in the basilica of St Peter.

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