THE PROCESS OF SAINTHOOD

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Beatification is the penultimate step on the journey to sainthood. People who have been beatified or canonised as saints may be worshipped as such, and their relics, images and statues venerated.

For a person to qualify for canonisation as a saint he or she must have performed at least two acts qualified as "miracles" by the Church's investigators while beatification requires at least one miracle. A candidate for beatification and later sainthood is referred to as the Servant of God.

John Paul II has beatified and canonised more people than any other Pope in history. In 1983 he simplified the procedure for beatification. Normally, five years must elapse after a person's death before proceedings for his or her beatification can be opened. The Pope, who was a friend and admirer of Mother Teresa, waived this condition putting her on the "fast track" to sainthood.

The first step is for the group seeking the beatification to approach the bishop of the diocese in which the candidate died through a "postulator". This group may be the diocese itself, a parish or a religious congregation or association.

The bishop, after receiving approval from Rome, appoints a tribunal to investigate the candidate's life. It hears witnesses who testify to his or her "heroic" exercise of Christian values, among them faith, hope and charity; and temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice. Documentary evidence is gathered.

At this stage the candidate may be titled Servant of God.

The tribunal then sends its findings to Rome to a special body called the Congregation for the Causes of Saints made up of nine theologians. If they approve, the cause is presented to the Pope, who in turn approves it and authorises the drafting of the decree and promulgation.

Once two decrees are promulgated, one relating to the person's virtues and the other to the miracle he or she has performed, the Pope approves beatification.

The Blessed may be accorded a feast day in the church calendar, granted in the case of Mother Teresa to the order of the Missionaries of Charity she founded. Her relics may also be venerated, as may her images and statues.

Canonisation requires proof of a second miracle attributable to the intervention of the candidate. So the Vatican will have to approve a second miracle before Mother Teresa can be officially canonised as a saint.



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