Christ, the divine master and model of perfection, who, together with the Father
and the Holy Spirit, is celebrated as “the Holy One,” has loved the Church as a
spouse and gave Himself for her so that He might sanctify her and might show her
to Himself as glorious. Therefore, after having given to all of His followers
the precept to imitate the perfection of the Father, He sends the Holy Spirit
upon all to stir them from within to love God with all their heart and to love
one another as He has loved them. As we are reminded by Vatican Council II, the
followers of Christ are called, not according to their works, but according to
His purpose and grace. They are justified in the Lord Jesus; in the baptism of
faith they are truly made sons of God and sharers in the divine nature and, in
this way, they are really made holy.
persons God, at one time or another, chooses some who, following the example of
Christ more closely, render outstanding witness of the kingdom of heaven by the
pouring out of their blood or by the heroic practice of virtues.
the earliest beginnings of the Christian religion, the Church has always
believed that the apostles and martyrs have been more closely linked to us in
Christ and has at the same time honored them together with the Blessed Virgin
Mary and the holy angels with special veneration and piously implored the help
of their intercession. Soon, added to their number were others also who imitated
the virginity and purity of Christ more exactly and, finally, still others whose
outstanding practice of Christian virtue and God-given gifts commended them to
the pious devotion of and imitation by the faithful.
contemplate the life of those who have followed Christ faithfully, we are
inspired by a new kind of motivation to seek after the future City and we are
taught in the safest manner the path whereby, amid the vicissitudes of the
world, we can arrive, each according to his/her own state of life and condition,
at perfect union with Christ, that is, holiness. To be sure, having so great a
cloud of witnesses around us, through whom God is made present to us and
addresses us, we are very strongly attracted to seek after His kingdom in
these signs and voice of the Lord with the greatest reverence and docility, the
Apostolic See, from time immemorial, in keeping with the serious task entrusted
to it of teaching, sanctifying and governing the People of God, proposes to the
faithful for their imitation, veneration and invocation men and women who are
brilliant examples of charity and the other evangelical virtues and, after due
investigations have been carried out, declares them, in the solemn action of
canonization, to be saints.
Causarum canonizationis instructio, which Our predecessor, Sixtus V,
entrusted to the Sacred Congregation of Rites which he himself
established, in the course of time has always been enlarged with new norms,
especially by the work of Urban VIII, which Prospero Lambertini (later to be Benedict XIV), while also
collecting the experiences of times past, handed on to posterity in his work
entitled, De Servorum Dei beatificatione et de Beatorum canonizatione.
This work remained the rule at the Sacred Congregation of Rites for almost two
centuries. These norms, finally, were substantially incorporated into the Code
of Canon Law which was published in 1917.
since the advance of the historical sciences has very greatly increased in our
time, it shows the need of providing the competent Congregation with a more
fitting instrument of research so that it may better respond to the demands of
critical art. As a result, Our predecessor of happy memory, Pius XI, in his
apostolic letter, Già da qualche tempo, issued on his own initiative on 6
February 1930, set up the “historical section” within the Sacred Congregation of
Rites and entrusted to it the study of the “historical causes”. However, on 4 January 1939, the same Pontiff ordered the
publication of Normas servandas in construendis processibus ordinariis super
causis historicis, whereby he really rendered the “apostolic process” unnecessary, so
that, from that time on, in “historical” causes only one process was carried out
with ordinary authority. Again, Paul VI, in his apostolic letter, Sanctitas
clarior, issued on his own initiative on 19 March 1969, set down that even in more recent causes there should be only one
cognitional process, that is, for collecting proofs, which the bishop was to
draw up but with prior authorization of the Holy See. The same Pontiff, by his apostolic constitution, Sacra
Rituum Congregatio, on 8 May 1969, in place of the Sacred Congregation of Rites,
established two new departments, one of which was entrusted with the regulation
of divine worship and the other with the handling of causes of saints. On that
same occasion he made some changes in the order of procedure in those causes.
following the most recent experiences, it seems very opportune to Us to
revise further the mode and the method of drawing up causes and so to regulate
the very Congregation for the Causes of Saints that We may meet the needs of
scholars as well as the wishes of Our brothers in the episcopacy who, time and
again, have asked for expeditiousness in the method as such but with maintenance
of the solidity of investigation in a business of such great gravity. In the
light of the teaching on collegiality proposed by the Second Vatican Council, We
are of a mind also that it is very appropriate that the bishops themselves
should be more closely associated with the Apostolic See in the processing of
causes of saints. For the future, therefore, We abrogate in this regard all laws
of whatever kind and We establish the following norms which must be observed.
THE INVESTIGATIONS TO BE MADE BY BISHOPS
1) Diocesan bishops or hierarchs and others equated with them in the
law, within the limits of their jurisdiction, have the right, either in virtue
of their office, or at the motion of individual members of the faithful, or of
legally recognized groups and their procurators, to investigate the life,
virtues or martyrdom, and the reputation for holiness or martyrdom, the alleged
miracles, as well as, if the case so warrants, the age-old public cult to the
Servant of God whose canonization is being sought.
2) In investigations of this kind, the bishop should proceed in
accordance with the special norms to be published by the Sacred Congregation for
Causes of Saints and, indeed, in this sequence:
He should seek from the postulator of the cause, after
he/she has been lawfully appointed by the actor, accurate information about the
life of the Servant of God and, at the same time, he should be instructed by the
postulator about the reasons which seem to favor promotion of the cause of
If the Servant of God has published writings of his/her own
composition, the bishop should take care that they be examined by
If nothing shall have been found contrary to faith or
morals in those writings, then the bishop should order that other writings,
unpublished (letters, diaries, etc.), as well as all documents which in any way
pertain to the cause, be diligently examined by persons qualified for this work;
after they have faithfully discharged their assignment, they should draw up a
report of the examinations carried out.
If, from what has been done so far, the bishop
prudently judges that the matter can proceed to further steps, he should see to
it that the witnesses brought in by the postulator, and others summoned by
virtue of his office, be duly examined. On the other hand, should an examination
of witnesses be urgent lest proofs be lost, they must be questioned even though
the examination of documents has not yet been completed.
Investigation of alleged miracles must be carried out separately
from the investigation regarding virtues or martyrdom.
When the investigations have been completed, a
certified copy of all the acts in duplicate is to be sent to the Sacred
Congregation together with a copy of the books of the Servant of God which were
examined by the theologian-censors and their judgment on them.
Furthermore, the bishop should append a declaration regarding the
observance of the decrees of Urban VIII regarding lack of public cult.
THE SACRED CONGREGATION FOR CAUSES OF SAINTS
3) The Sacred Congregation for Causes of Saints is presided over by a
cardinal prefect with the assistance of a secretary. Its task is to treat those
matters which pertain to the canonization of Servants of God and doing this by
being of assistance to the bishops in instructing causes by advice and by
instructions and by in-depth study of the causes, and, finally, by giving its
opinions. It belongs to the same Congregation to issue decisions on all matters
which refer to the authenticity and conservation of relics.
4) The duty of the secretary is:
to foster relations with outsiders, especially with
bishops, who instruct the causes;
to take part in the discussions on the merits of the cause by
giving his opinion in the assembly of the cardinals and bishops;
to draw up the report which is to be handed over to
the Supreme Pontiff, regarding the opinions of the cardinals and the bishops.
5) In the discharge of his assignment the secretary is assisted by an
undersecretary to whom it belongs in a special way to see, together with an
appropriate number of minor officials, whether the prescriptions of the law in
the instruction of causes have been fulfilled.
6) For the study of causes within the Sacred Congregation there is a
college of relators presided over by a relator general.
7) It is the task of the individual relators:
together with outside cooperators, to study the causes
committed to him and to prepare positiones regarding the virtues or the
to draw up in writing historical sketches if such have been
requested by the consultors;
to be present at the assembly of theologians as an
expert but without a right to vote.
8) One of the relators should be specially deputed for the composition
of positiones regarding miracles and he shall attend the meeting of
doctors and the assembly of theologians.
9) The relator general presides at the meeting of the history
consultors and is assisted by some study assistants.
10) Within the Sacred Congregation, one person is designated as
promoter of the faith, that is, prelate theologian. His duties are:
to preside over the assembly of theologians, in which
he casts a vote;
to prepare the report about the assembly itself;
to attend the session of the cardinals and the bishops
as an expert but without right to vote. For one or other cause, if there should
be need, the cardinal prefect can appoint a promoter of the faith for the case.
11) Consultors, summoned from various regions, are to be
present when the causes of saints are treated. Some of these consultors are to
be experts in matters historical, others in theology and especially spiritual
12) For the examination of health cures which are proposed
as miracles, there should be within the Sacred Congregation a group of medical
MODE OF PROCEDURE WITHIN THE SACRED CONGREGATION
13) When the bishop has sent to Rome all the acts and
documents pertinent to a cause, the Sacred Congregation for Causes of Saints
proceeds in this manner:
Before everything else, the undersecretary thoroughly
examines whether, in the investigations conducted by the bishop, everything set
down in the law has been observed and he will make a report on the results of
his examination in the ordinary assembly.
If the assembly judges that the cause has been instructed according
to the norms of law, it shall determine to whom among the relators is the cause
to be committed. Then the relator, together with an external collaborator, will
draw up a positio regarding the virtues or the martyrdom according to the
rules of critical standards to be observed in hagiography.
Both in age-old causes and in those of more recent
times in which, in the judgment of the relator general, the special nature so
demands, the issued positio is to be subjected to the examination of
consultors who are especially expert in the matter so that they may express
their opinion regarding its scientific value as well as its sufficiency for the
effect at issue. In individual causes the Sacred Congregation can turn over the
positio for examination also to other learned men who are not included
among the number of consultors.
The positio (together with the written opinions
of the history consultors as well as new explanations by the relator, if any are
necessary) shall be handed over to the theologian-consultors who will give their
opinion on the merits of the cause. It is their responsibility, together with
the promoter of the faith, so to study the cause that before it comes up for
discussion in a special assembly, the controverted theological questions, if
any, may be examined in depth.
The definitive opinions of the theologian-consultors
together with the conclusions drawn up by the promoter of the faith will be
given to the cardinals and bishops who will adjudge the cause.
With regard to the alleged miracles, the Congregation
takes cognizance in the following manner:
A relator, appointed for this purpose, prepares a
positio regarding the alleged miracles. They are then weighed in a
session of experts (if there is question of cures, in a session of doctors)
whose opinions and conclusions are set forth in an accurate report.
Next, the miracles must be discussed in a special assembly of
theologians and, finally, in an assembly of cardinals and bishops.
15) The decisions of the cardinals and bishops are
reported to the Supreme Pontiff who alone has the right to decide that public
ecclesiastical cult is to be rendered to the Servants of God.
16) In the individual causes of canonization whose process
is presently in progress within the Sacred Congregation, the Sacred Congregation
itself, by a special decree, shall establish the mode of further procedure but
with the intent of this new law observed.
17) What We have prescribed by this constitution of Ours,
begins to have effect from this very date.
statutes and prescriptions of Ours We wish to be and continue to be, now and for
the future, firm and effective, notwithstanding, insofar as need be, apostolic
constitutions and regulations issued by Our predecessors and also other
prescriptions worthy of special mention and derogation.
Given at Rome, at St. Peter’s,
25 January 1983, the fifth of Our Pontificate.
John Paul II
Const. dog. Lumen Gentium, n. 40.
Const. apost. Immensa Aeterni Dei, 22 January 1588.
Cf. Bullarium Romanum, ed. Taurinensis, t. VIII, pp.
Litt. apost. Caelestis Hierusalem cives, 5 July 1634;
Urbani VIII P. O.M. Decreta servanda in canonizatione et beatificatione
Sanctorum, 12 March 1642.