|Everything is Directed Towards 'Holiness'
Throughout her history, the Church has always celebrated holiness as an
expression of the "wonderful things" the Lord works in the life of his
People. In response to sensibilities and historical contexts, the Church
has paid special attention to the liturgical forms and procedures in which
praise to the Most High is expressed and new life given to the faith and
piety of the faithful.
These procedures and the significant wealth of such rites have also
been carefully studied by the Church in light of the most recent ecclesial
knowledge for a more incisive understanding and a more cogent effect of
the very nature of holiness, which the Church celebrates with the rites of
Beatification and Canonization.
To this end, the Holy Father Benedict XVI has introduced important new
procedures for Beatifications.
I. Historical-juridical premise
1. In the first millennium of the Church's existence, the cult of
Martyrs and later of Confessors of the Faith was regulated by the various
particular Churches. On the occasion of a Synod, the Bishops, individually
or collegially, would authorize new particular cults that began with the
elevatio or translatio corporis [the body was exhumed and
transferred]. These acts subsequently became known as "episcopal
canonizations" or "particular canonizations" because they involved
directly only the local Church (Benedict XIV, "Magister" of the Causes of
Saints, will make episcopal canonization equivalent to beatification,
which consists in the concession [permissio] of a cult "pro
aliquibus determinatis locis". [De Servorum Dei beatificatione
et beatorum canonizatione, Prato, 1839, L.I, ch. 31, 4, p.
In the 11th century, the principle that as universal Pastor of the
Church the Roman Pontiff alone has the authority to prescribe a public
devotion began to gain ground, both in the particular Churches and the
universal Church. With a Letter to the King and Bishops of Sweden,
Alexander III asserted the Pope's authority to confer the title of Saint
and the relevant public cult. This norm became a universal law with
Gregory IX in 1234.
In the 14th century, the Holy See began to authorize cults limited to
specific places and to certain Servants of God whose canonization cause
had not yet been initiated or had not yet reached its conclusion. This
concession, with a view to future Canonization, is at the origin of
After Sixtus IV (1483), Servants of God to whom a limited cult was
granted were known as Blesseds. A definitive juridical distinction was
thereby made between the titles of Saint and Blessed, which in the Middle
Ages had been used loosely.
The concession of a local devotion was rendered official and
communicated to those concerned in an Apostolic Letter in the form of a
Brief, which the local Bishop implemented auctoritate
After the establishment of the Congregation for Rites (1588) by Sixtus
V, the Pope continued to permit limited cults (Missa et Officium)
to culminate in Canonization. Procedures were gradually clarified and
refined until they developed into the norms in force today which were
promulgated in 1983.
2. The teaching on the institution of Beatification ("Doctores...
tradunt Beatificationem esse actum, quo Summus Romanus
Pontifex indulgendo permittit aliquem Dei
Servum coli posse in aliqua Provincia,
Dioecesi Civitate, aut Religiosa Familia Cultu quodam
determinato, ac Beatorum proprio, usquequo ad solemnem eius
Canonizationem deveniatur" [Benedictus XIV, L.I, ch. 39, 5, p. 262]),
and Canonization (ibid., p. 263) has remained substantially
unchanged down the centuries. The distinction between them (I. Noval,
Commentarium Codicis Juris Canonici, Lib. IV De Processibus,
pars II, Augustae Taurinorum Romae, 1932, p. 7), which is adequately
expressed in the respective proclamatory or constitutive formulas, is
clear and essential.
Canonization is the supreme glorification by the Church of a Servant of
God raised to the honours of the altar with a decree declared definitive
and preceptive for the whole Church, involving the solemn Magisterium of
the Roman Pontiff.
This is expressed unequivocally in the formula: "Ad honorem
Sanctae et Individuae Trinitatis... auctoritate
Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, beatorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli ac
Nostra... Beatum N. N. Sanctum esse
decernimus ac definimus, ac Sanctorum Catalogo adscribimus,
statuentes eum in universa Ecclesia inter Sanctos pia devotione recoli
Beatification, on the other hand, consists in the concession of a
public cult in the form of an indult and limited to a Servant of God whose
virtues to a heroic degree, or Martyrdom, have been duly recognized, as is
pointed out by the respective formula: "...facultatem facimus ut
Venerabilis Servus Dei N. N. Beati nomine
in posterum appelletur, eiusque festum... in locis ac
modis iure statutis quotannis celebrari possit".
II. The rites of Beatification down the centuries
The rites and ceremonies for Beatification and Canonization, as well as
the formulas to be pronounced and other minor details, have been expressed
in different ways, although they have essentially remained in doctrinal
continuity. Here we point out four stages that solely concern the
institution of Beatification:
a) Before 1662: The Pope, conceding a local cult
(beatification), normally left to those concerned (Promoters of the Cause,
the Local Ordinary) the possibility of choosing the day, venue and form in
which to solemnize the event of the Beatification that had occurred and to
inaugurate the new cult (Missa et Officium).
It could also happen in certain monasteries that no external solemnity
was celebrated on the occasion of Beatification, but the feast of the new
Blessed was commemorated on the day of the year established by the
b) From 1662 to 1968: The first Beatification in solemn form was
that of St. Francis de Sales, desired by Alexander VII. The rite took
place in St. Peter's Basilica in two separate phases.
The first was in the morning of 8 January 1662 when the actual rite of
Beatification was celebrated. The Apostolic Brief, dated 28
December 1661, was read out, with which the Pope conferred upon him the
title of Blessed and the relative liturgical honours; the celebration of
solemn Mass followed, at which the Bishop Soissons presided. It was
subsequently usual for a Canonical Bishop of the Vatican Chapter to
preside at the Eucharistic celebration.
The main role in this morning rite was played by the Sacred
Congregation for Rites and the Vatican Chapter; the second phase took
place in the afternoon of the same day when the Pope entered the Basilica
to venerate the new Blessed and to receive the plenary indulgence which he
himself had bestowed upon the faithful who visited the Basilica that day.
The practice begun by Alexander VII remained virtually unchanged until
1968, when the last Beatification in accordance with that rite was
celebrated (cf. F. Veraja, La Beatificazione. Storia,
problemi, prospettive, Rome, ed. Congregation for the Causes of
Saints, 1983, pp. 7-111).
c) From 1971 to 2004: With the Beatification of St. Maximilian
Kolbe (d. 1941), celebrated on the morning of 17 October 1971, Paul VI
introduced the important innovation of presiding personally at the rite of
Beatification. Thus, the afternoon ceremony, during which the Holy Father
visited the Basilica to venerate the new Blessed and receive the plenary
indulgence, was abolished.
For the first time, a "beatification formula" was drafted that was read
by the Pope himself. Until then, the Congregation for Rites had been of
the opinion that "even if the Pope intervened, there must be a clear
distinction in solemnity between canonization and beatification" (wrote
Bishop Antonelli, Secretary of the Dicastery: Archives of the
Congregation, V AR 107/966 in G. Stano, Il rito della
Beatificazione da Alessandro VII ai nostri giorni, in Miscellanea
per il quarto Centenario della Congregazione della Cause dei Santi
[1588-1988], Vatican City, 1988, p. 401).
In successive Beatifications (1972, 1974, 1975), the Pope, present at
the celebration, received the peroratio and spoke the formula of
beatification but did not celebrate Mass. At most, it was the Bishop of
the new Blessed's Diocese who presided at the Eucharistic celebration. The
peroratio was drafted by the Prefect of the Secretary or the
Congregation for the Causes of Saints or also by the diocesan Bishop who
presided at the Eucharistic celebration.
With the Beatification on 19 October 1975, the Pope resumed the
practice of presiding at the Mass and continued to do so until 2004.
d) As from 2005: Pope Benedict XVI has established that Cardinal
Josè Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of
Saints, should preside at the rites of Beatification on 14 May 2005. "De
mandato Summi Pontificis", the Cardinal read the Apostolic Letter with
which the Pope conceded the title of Blessed to two Venerable Servants of
God. Prior to this, the Bishops of the new Blesseds' Dioceses briefly
summed up their lives. Cardinal Józef
Glemp, diocesan Archbishop, Primate of Poland, presided at the
Beatification rites in Warsaw, Poland, on 19 June 2005.
III. Criteria for the rite of future Beatifications
The Holy Father Benedict XVI's recent decision not to preside
personally at Beatification rites is a response to the widely felt need
i) give greater emphasis in the celebration to the substantial
difference between Beatification and Canonization; and
ii) to involve the particular Churches more visibly in the
Beatification rites of their respective Servants of God.
It became clear in the many Beatifications celebrated by John Paul II
in every part of the world that it is more pastorally suitable that
Beatifications take place preferably in the particular Churches, while
allowing for the possible choice of Rome for special reasons to be
assessed, case by case, by the Secretariat of State.
Wherever Beatifications take place, in Rome or elsewhere, it is
necessary to show clearly that every Beatification is an act of the Roman
Pontiff, who this permits ("facultatem facimus" in the current
beatification formula) the local cult of a Servant of God, making his
decision public in an Apostolic Letter.
Rites of Beatification and Canonization are already in themselves quite
different; nonetheless, the fact that from 1971 onwards the Holy Father
generally presided at them has almost blinded people to the substantial
difference between two institutions.
IV. Practical guidelines for the rite of Beatification
The directives that follow, therefore, concern rites of Beatification
celebrated either in Rome or outside it, at which the Holy Father does not
normally preside but at which he can always choose to preside in the
circumstances and ways he may deem appropriate.
a) Rites of Beatification in particular Churches:
It is opportune from now on that rites of Beatification should take
place in the Diocese that has promoted the new Blessed's cause, or
in any other more suitable place in the same Ecclesiastical Province or
The date and time of the Beatification as well as the possible grouping
together of Servants of God from different Dioceses will be decided by the
diocesan Bishop (or diocesan Bishops) and the Promoters of the Cause (or
Causes) with the Secretariat of State, as has been done until now.
The Beatification rite that will take place during a liturgical
celebration will begin with the presentation to the Assembly of the
essential biographical traits of the future Blessed. This presentation
will normally be made by the diocesan Bishop, or should there be several
Servants of God, by the respective diocesan Bishops, as was done at the
Beatification on 14 May in St Peter's Basilica.
The Holy Father will appoint a Representative who will officially read
the Apostolic Letter with which the Roman Pontiff himself concedes the
title and honours of a Blessed to the Servant of God in question. The
Pope's Representative will normally be the Prefect of the Congregation for
the Causes of Saints.
In accordance with the most recent practices, the rite of Beatification
will take place during the Eucharistic celebration, precisely after the
penitential rite and before the singing of the "Gloria".
However, specific local reasons might suggest that the rite take place
during a celebration of the Word of God or Liturgy of the Hours. In the
Pontificate of John Paul II, a few Beatifications were occasionally
celebrated during First Vespers on Sunday or on a Solemnity.
It is preferable that the Papal Representative or Diocesan Bishop (or
one of the Diocesan Bishops when Blesseds come from different Dioceses)
preside at the liturgical celebration in honour of the new Blessed. The
Secretariat of State will decide on this, after hearing the opinion of all
The Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff will
coordinate with the particular Churches everything concerning the rite of
b) Rites of Beatification in Rome
The parties concerned (Bishops and Promoters of the Cause) may ask the
Secretariat of State for the rite of Beatification of a "non-Roman"
Servant of God to take place in Rome rather than in the particular Church
to which he or she belonged. The Secretariat of State will assess the
reasons for this request. The same criteria which regulate the rites of
Beatification that take place in Rome are applicable to rites taking place
The use of "booklets" is recommended. They should continue to be
prepared by the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme
Pontiff in order to enable the faithful to participate better in the
Lastly, it seems fitting that the rite of Beatification be
substantially the same wherever it is celebrated. It is therefore to be
hoped that an "Ordo Beatificationis et Canonizationis" may be drafted as
soon as possible, edited by the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of
the Supreme Pontiff in agreement with the Congregation for the Causes of
Saints and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the
Congregation for the Causes of Saints
Having heard the conclusions of the study of the theological reasons to
the rites of Beatification and Canonization and their pastoral
requirement: and after receiving the approval of the Holy Father Benedict
XVI, this Congregation for the Causes of Saints informs [the faithful] of
the following new measures:
1. While it should be understood that the Holy Father will preside at a
Canonization, which attributes the devotion of the whole Church to the
Blessed, Beatification, nonetheless a Pontifical act, will be celebrated
by a representative of the Holy Father who will normally be the Prefect of
the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
2. The rite of Beatification will take place in the Diocese that has
promote the Cause of the new Blessed, or in any other place deemed
3. At the request of the Bishops and Promoters of the Cause, after
having heard the opinion of the Secretariat of State, the rite of
Beatification may take place in Rome.
4. Lastly, the same rite will take place during the Eucharistic
celebration unless special liturgical reasons suggest that it take place
during the celebration of the Word or of the Liturgy of the Hours.
Vatican City, 29 September 2005
Cardinal José Saraiva Martins,
Archbishop Edward Nowak