Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Harder rules to become a saint

Paul Delaroche [French, 1797-1856]
Young Christian Martyr
Oil on canvas, 171 x 148 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

What does it take to be a saint ?

It is to be harder to become a saint. Or at least declared to be one.

Pope Benedict XVI has instructed Vatican and diocesan officials to use stricter criteria when assessing candidates for sainthood and beatification.

Richard Owen of The Times reports that a document made public in the Vatican calls on bishops to show ''greater sobriety and rigour'' when accepting requests to begin the first phase of proceedings.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, head of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said "certain aspects" of investigating miracles required for canonisation and beatification had proved "problematic'' over the past two decades.

He said that during the pontificate of John Paul II, prospective saints from countries the Pope was about to visit or which lacked a local saint had sometimes been "fast-tracked".

The new instructions encourage "meticulous" medical investigation of miraculous cures, and urge those investigating the life of a prospective saint to act objectively and not gloss over or ignore personal faults or defects or other "contrary findings".

The rules lay down that the holiness of candidates for sainthood must be shown to have been "stable, continuous and widespread among people of faith and present in a significant part of the people of God".

When questioning witnesses, Vatican investigators must not ask "leading questions" or "suggest an answer".

Those testifying to the holiness of a candidate should be eyewitnesses who had direct knowledge of the person in question and can provide "specific examples", not second-hand impressions.