|ROME, 6 OCT. 2009 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father
Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum
Q: What type of veneration is due to someone who has been declared a
venerable? Can there be official liturgical or paraliturgical prayers
addressed to that person? Can that person be mentioned during the naming
of the saints at Mass?
G.C., Bangalore, India
A: Traditionally a servant of God is called venerable after the
promulgation of a decree declaring that he or she practiced the virtues
to a heroic degree.
For precision's sake, however, it must be noted that this title is no
longer a stage along the path of beatification and canonization. Thus it
is no longer technically correct to say that a person has been declared
venerable, since no such declaration is issued.
Nor are there any particular liturgical honors attributed to a person
who has been decreed to have practiced heroic virtues, as these must
await the conclusion of the process and the (possible) eventual
Pope John Paul II reformed the basic norms regarding the process of
canonization with his 1983 apostolic constitution "Divinus Perfectionis
Magister." The Congregation for Saints' Causes has published several
clarifications and instructions with more precise regulations, such as
the 2007 instruction "Sanctorum Mater," tightening the rules for the
initial diocesan phase of the process.
At this stage the law says: "Any solemn celebrations or panegyric
speeches about Servants of God whose sanctity of life is still being
legitimately examined are prohibited in Churches. Furthermore, one must
also refrain, even outside of Church, from any acts which could mislead
the faithful into thinking that the inquiry conducted by the Bishop into
the life of the Servant of God and his virtues or martyrdom carries with
it the certitude that the Servant of God will be one day canonized."
Likewise, before closing the diocesan stage of the process the judges
must assure that there has been no public cult offered the candidate.
Thus the 2007 instruction states:
"Art. 117 - § 1. In accordance with the dispositions of Pope Urban VIII,
it is prohibited for a Servant of God to be an object of public
ecclesiastical cult without the previous authorization of the Holy See.
"§ 2. Such dispositions do not impede, in any way, private devotion
toward the Servant of God and the spontaneous spreading of his
reputation of holiness or martyrdom and of intercessory power.
"Art. 118 - § 1. In observance of the above-mentioned dispositions,
prior to the close of the Inquiry the Bishop or his Delegate must ensure
that the Servant of God is not an object of unlawful cult.
"§ 2. For this purpose, the Bishop or his Delegate, the Promotor of
Justice and the Notary of the cause, must inspect the tomb of the
Servant of God, the room where he lived and/or died, and other possible
places where signs of unlawful cult may be found.
"§ 3. The Notary is to draw up a report on the outcome of the inspection
that is to be inserted into the acts of the Inquiry.
"Art. 119 - § 1. If no abuses of cult are discovered, the Bishop or his
Delegate is to proceed to the preparation of the "Declaration on the
Absence of Cult", that is, the declaration which attests to the fact
that the Decrees of Urban VIII have been observed.
"§ 2. The declaration is to be inserted among the acts of the Inquiry."
Once the diocesan phase of the process is concluded, the acts go to Rome
for the subsequent stages of examination. A special book called the "Positio,"
or summary of the documentation that proves the candidate's heroic
virtue, is prepared. This is first examined by nine theologians who give
their vote. If the majority vote in favor it is examined by the
cardinals and bishops who are members of the Congregation for Saints'
Causes. If these approve the cause, it is finally presented to the Pope
for a final decision. Once the cause has received papal approval, the
decree of heroic virtues is promulgated.
The next and final stage of the process is the examination of an alleged
miracle attributed to the servant of God. This must also be rigorously
examined from both the scientific and theological standpoints. If and
when this stage is completed, there is another decree and the Holy
Father decides on the date for beatification.
Along with beatification comes the concession for public liturgical
veneration albeit still limited to particular spheres such as within a
religious family, or to the diocese where the new blessed is buried or
is associated with in a particular way.
Thus, as said above, there is no public liturgical or paraliturgical
cult for a "venerable" since there is as yet no guarantee that the
person will eventually be beatified. Some of the restrictions in force
during the early stages of the process, such as the prohibition on
panegyric speeches regarding the candidate's sanctity of life, would
naturally be lifted as the Church has officially proclaimed that the
person lived a holy life.
* * *
Veneration for a "Venerable" [10-20-2009]
In the wake of our comments on the absence of any liturgical honors for
a venerable (Oct. 6), there were inquires regarding the liturgical
honors due to a blessed.
We addressed this issue on Dec. 21, 2004, and Jan. 18, 2005.
In synthesis we stated that according to the norms given in the 1970
instruction "Calendaria Particularia," Nos. 25-37: "The blessed are
usually venerated with celebrations on a local level in places where
they were born, where they died, where their relics are preserved. They
are also venerated in places that had a long-term association with their
activities, in a church dedicated to them, or within the confines of the
churches and oratories of a particular religious order which has its own
"However, even in these cases, it is better to begin by inserting this
celebration as an optional memorial and later expand, both territorially
and in liturgical ranking as devotion spreads (No. 31).
"In some cases, especially in ancient dioceses, it might even be better
to restrict this initial veneration to the church where his relics are
kept or to his native town."
The restriction of veneration to certain locales means that the presence
of a significant community from the same country as the blessed would
not in itself constitute a sufficient motive to be able to celebrate the
The case of a saint is different as a saint's day may be celebrated
throughout the world unless impeded by another celebration of higher