apostolic constitution, Divinus perfectionis Magister, issued on 25
January 1983, established the order of procedure in investigations which, in the
future, are to be made by bishops in causes of saints, and since, likewise, this
Sacred Congregation was given the task of issuing special norms in this regard,
the said Sacred Congregation has drawn up the following norms which the Supreme
Pontiff wished to be examined by the plenary assembly of the Fathers in charge
of the aforesaid Congregation, held on 22 and 23 June 1981, and after all the
heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia had also been heard, he ratified
them and ordered that they be published.
1. a) The actor
promotes the cause of canonization; any one of the People of God or any group of
the faithful who have been admitted by ecclesiastical authority, can discharge
b) The actor pushes the cause
through a postulator who has been set up according to law.
2. a) The
postulator is established by the actor by means of a mandate of administration
[mandatum procurationis] drawn up according to law and approved by the
b) While a cause is being
handled by the Sacred Congregation, the postulator, provided that he/she has
been approved by the Congregation itself, should have a fixed residence in Rome.
3. a) The office
of postulator can be discharged by priests, by members of institutes of
consecrated life, and by laypersons, all of whom should be experts in
theological, canonical, and historical matters as well as acquainted with the
practice of the Sacred Congregation.
b) A special duty of the
postulator is to carry out the investigations regarding the life of the Servant
of God under investigation in order to determine his/her reputation for holiness
[fama sanctitatis] and the importance of the cause for the Church,
and to make a report on these matters to the bishop.
Committed also to the
postulator is the task of administering, according to the norms given out by the
Sacred Congregation, the goods offered for the cause.
4. To the postulator belongs
the right to substitute for himself/herself, by a lawful mandate and with the
consent of the actors, others who are called vice-postulators.
5. a) In the
instruction of causes of canonization the competent bishop is he in whose
territory the Servant of God passed his/her last days, unless special
circumstances, approved by the Sacred Congregation, recommend otherwise.
If there if a question
about an alleged miracle, the competent bishop is he in whose territory this
miracle took place.
6. a) The bishop
can instruct a cause either personally or through his delegate, a priest who is
truly an expert in theology, canon law, and also history, especially if it is a
question of age-old causes.
The priest who is chosen
to be promoter of justice must possess the same qualifications.
All officials who have
part in a cause must take an oath to discharge their function faithfully and
must observe secrecy.
7. A cause can be recent
[recentior] or age-old [antiqua]: it is called recent if
the martyrdom or virtues of the Servant of God can be proved by oral depositions
of eyewitnesses [de visu]; it is called age-old when the proofs regarding
martyrdom or virtues can be derived only from written sources.
8. Whoever intends to initiate
a cause of canonization should present to the competent bishop, through a
postulator, a petition letter [supplex libellus] in which the instruction
of the cause is petitioned.
9. a) In recent
cases, the petition letter must not be presented sooner than five years from the
death of the Servant of God.
On the other hand, if it
is presented after the thirtieth year, the bishop cannot proceed further unless,
after having completed an investigation, he is convinced that there has been no
fraud or deceit in delaying the commencement of the cause in the case on the
part of the plaintiffs.
10. The postulator must present
together with the petition letter:
in both recent and age-old causes, a biography of some
historical worth about the Servant of God, if such exists, or, if none exists,
an accurate report chronologically arranged about the life and activities of the
Servant of God, his/her, virtues or martyrdom, his/her reputation for holiness
and signs [fama signorum], without omission of those matters which seem
to be contrary to the cause or less favorable to it;
all the published writings of the Servant of God in authentic copy
in recent causes only, a list of the persons who can
be consulted to discover or to oppose the truth regarding the virtues or the
martyrdom of the Servant of God as well as regarding his/her reputation for
holiness or signs.
11. a) When the petition
letter has been accepted, the bishop should consult at least the regional body
of bishops about the opportuneness of initiating the cause.
Furthermore, in his own
and, if he believes it appropriate, in other dioceses, with the consent of the
bishops of those places, he should make public the postulator’s petition and
invite all the faithful to report to him useful information concerning the cause
should they have any to supply.
12. a) If from the
pieces of information received an obstacle of some importance should emerge
against the cause, the bishop should inform the postulator about it so that he
may be able to remove it.
If the obstacle has not
been removed and, as a result, if the bishop judges that the cause must not be
admitted, he should advise the postulator and give the reasons for his decision.
13. If the bishop intends to
initiate the cause, he should seek out the opinion of two theologian-censors
regarding the published writings of the Servant of God. They should report
whether anything contrary to faith or good morals is found in those writings.
14. a) If the opinions
of the theologian-censors are favorable, the bishop orders that all the writings
of the Servant of God which have not yet been published as well as all and each
of the historical documents, whether in manuscript form or published, which in
any way concern the cause, should be collected.
When conducting an
investigation of this kind, especially when there is question of age-old causes,
persons who are expert in historical and archival matters should be used.
When this assignment has
been completed, the experts should give to the bishop, together with the
collected writings, a careful and separate report in which they report and
testify that the task has been well carried out; they include a listing of the
writings and documents; they set forth a judgment about their authenticity and
value as well as about the personality of the Servant of God as it is derived
from those very writings and documents.
15. a) After the report
has been received, the bishop should hand over to the promoter of justice or to
another male expert everything which has been acquired up to that time so that
he may draw up questionnaires [interrogatoria] which are adapted to
search out and discover the truth about the Servant of God’s life, virtues, or
martyrdom, his/her reputation for holiness or martyrdom.
In age-old causes,
however, the questionnaires look to only the still existent reputation for
holiness or martyrdom as well as, if the case so warrants, the cult rendered to
the Servant of God in recent times.
Meanwhile, the bishop
should forward to the Sacred Congregation for Causes of Saints a brief
informatory notice about the life of the Servant of God and of the firmness of
the cause in order to ascertain that there is no obstruction [nihil obstat] to the cause on the
part of the Holy See.
16. a) Then the bishop
or his delegate should examine the witnesses brought in by the postulator and
other persons who are to be questioned ex officio. A notary should be
used to transcribe the words of the party making a deposition who, at the end,
must confirm the transcription.
If, however, it is urgent that the witnesses be examined lest proofs be lost,
they must be questioned even though the investigation of documents has not yet
b) The promoter of justice
should be present at the examination of the witnesses; but if he were not
present, the acts should later be subjected to his examination so that he
himself may be able to make animadversions and to propose what he judges
necessary or opportune.
The witnesses should be
examined, first of all, according to the questionnaires. However, the bishop or
his delegate is not to fail to propose to the witnesses other necessary or
useful questions so that what they have said may be put in a clearer light, or
that difficulties which have emerged may be clearly resolved and explained.
17. Witnesses ought to be
eyewitnesses; to these may be added, if the case so warrants, some hearsay
witnesses [de auditu a videntibus]; all of them, however, must be
18. Relatives of the Servant of
God, by consanguinity or affinity, should be brought in as first-class
witnesses, as well as other persons who had family relations or close contacts
with the Servant.
19. For proving martyrdom or
the exercise of virtues and reputation for signs of a Servant of God who belongs
to some institute of the consecrated life, a notable part of the witnesses
brought in should be outsiders unless, because of the particular mode of living
by the Servant of God, that turns out to be impossible.
20. The following should not be
admitted to testify:
a priest as regards everything which became known to
him from sacramental confession;
regular confessors or spiritual directors of the Servant of God as
regards everything which they learned from the Servant of God in the
extra-sacramental forum of conscience;
the postulator of the cause while his/her assignment
21. a) The bishop or his
delegate should summon some witnesses ex officio who will be able, if the
case so warrants, to make a contribution to completing the investigation,
especially if they themselves are opposed to the cause.
b) To be summoned as ex
officio witnesses are the experts [viri periti] who carried out the
investigations of the documents and drew up the report about them and they must
declare under oath:
that they carried out all the investigations and
collected everything which pertained to the cause;
that they did not tamper with or modify any document
22. a) Attending
physicians, when there is question of unusual recoveries, must be brought in as
But if they refuse to
appear before the bishop or his delegate, he should take care that they draw up
in writing and under oath, if possible, a report on the disease and its course;
this report is to be made part of the acts. Or at least their decision should be
taken down by an intermediary [interposita persona] and then subjected to
23. In their testimony, which
must be confirmed by oath, the witnesses must indicate the source of their
knowledge regarding what they assert; otherwise, their testimony must count for
24. If any witness prefers to
hand over to the bishop or his delegate, either together with a deposition or
apart from one, something drawn up earlier by himself/herself and committed to
writing, let such a written statement be accepted provided that the witness
himself/herself affirm under oath that he/she wrote it and that its contents are
true, and let the said statement be added to the acts of the cause.
25. a) Whatever be the
way in which the witnesses hand over their pieces of information, the bishop or
his delegate should diligently see to it that he always renders them authentic
by his signature and his own seal.
Documents and written
testimony, whether collected by experts or provided by others, should be
declared authentic by affixing the name and seal of some notary or trustworthy
public official [publicus officialis].
26. a) If investigations
regarding documents or witnesses must be made in another diocese, the bishop or
his delegate should send a letter to the competent bishop who should act
according to the norm of these statutes.
Acts of this kind of
inquiry should be kept in the chancery archives but a copy should be made
according to the norm in nn. 29- 30 and sent to the requesting
27. a) With the greatest
diligence and assiduity the bishop or his delegate should see to it that in the
collecting of proofs nothing be omitted which in any way pertains to the cause;
he should hold it for certain that the happy outcome of the cause depends in
great part on the good instruction [instructio] of the cause.
Therefore, after all the
proofs have been collected, the promoter of justice should inspect all the acts
and documents so that, if anything seems to him necessary, he can ask for
The postulator also must
be given the right to inspect the acts so that, if the case so warrants, the
proofs can be completed by new witnesses or documents.
28. a) Before the
investigation is completed, the bishop or his delegate should diligently inspect
the burial place of the Servant of God, the sleeping quarters in which he/she
lived or died and, if there be any, other places where a person could show signs
of cult in his/her honor; he should also make a declaration about the observance
of the decree of Urban VIII regarding lack of cult [super non
b) A report should be drawn
up about the discharge of all these matters and inserted into the acts.
29. a) When the acts of
instruction have been completed, the bishop or his delegate should set down that
a certified copy [transumptum] be drawn up unless, in view of approved
circumstances, this was already allowed to be done during the instruction
b) A certified copy should be
transcribed from the original acts and should be made in duplicate.
30. a) After the drawing
up of the certified copy has been completed, a comparison should be made with
the original [archetypum], and the notary should sign each page with at
least his initials and affix it with his seal.
The original should be
preserved closed and affixed with the seals in the chancery archives.
31. a) A certified copy
of the investigation and the appended documents in duplicate should be safely
sent to the Sacred Congregation duly wrapped and affixed with the seals together
with a copy of the books of the Servant of God which have been examined by
theologian-censors together with their judgment.
b) If a translation of the
acts and documents is necessary in a language admitted before the Sacred
Congregation, two copies of the translation should be drawn up and declared
authentic and be sent to Rome together with the certified copy.
Furthermore, the bishop or
his delegate should send to the Cardinal Prefect letters about the oath used by
the witnesses and about the legitimacy of the acts.
32. The investigation regarding
miracles must be instructed separately from the investigation regarding the
virtues or martyrdom and should be carried out according to the following
33. a) The bishop who is
competent according to the norm of no. 5, b), after he has accepted the
petition of the postulator together with a short but accurate report about the
alleged miracle as well as the documents concerning it, should seek out a
judgment from one or two experts.
Thereafter, if he has
decided that a juridical investigation be instructed, he should, personally or
by his delegate, examine all the witnesses according to the norms set down above
in nn. 15, a); 16- 18 and 21-24.
34. a) If there is
question of the cure of some disease, the bishop or his delegate should seek
help from a doctor who is to propose questions to the witnesses in order to
clarify matters better according to need and circumstances.
If the cured person is
still alive, an inspection of him/her should be made by experts so that proof
can be had of the duration of the cure.
35. The certified copy of the
investigation together with the appended documents should be sent to the Sacred
Congregation in accordance with what is set down in nn. 29-31.
36. Every kind of solemnity or
panegyric of Servants of God is prohibited in churches if the holiness of their
life is still subject to lawful examination. Moreover, even outside a church,
one must refrain from those acts whereby the faithful can be led to falsely
think that the investigation made by a bishop about the life and virtues or the
martyrdom of a Servant of God carries with it certainty of future canonization
of the said Servant of God.
In the audience granted to
the undersigned Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation on 07 February 1983, His
Holiness, Pope John Paul II deigned to approve and to ratify these norms and
ordered that they be published and begin to have force from this very date, and
be observed, duly and religiously, by all bishops who instruct causes of
canonization and by others concerned. All things to the contrary
notwithstanding, even those deserving special mention.
Given at Rome, from the offices
of the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints, 07 February 1983.
Cf. Const. ap. Divinus
perfectionis Magister, n. 2, 1°.