|Intelligence and balance in the search for witnesses
On Saturday morning, 19
December , in the Vatican's Clementine Hall, the Holy Father spoke
to the members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on the
occasion of its 40th anniversary. The following is a translation of the
Pope's Discourse, which was given in Italian.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I would like to express to
you all my joy at meeting you! I greet with deep cordiality the
Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops present. I address a special thought
to the Prefect of the Dicastery, Archbishop Angelo Amato, and thank him
for his kind and affectionate words on behalf of all. Together with him
I greet the Secretary of the Congregation, the Undersecretary, the
Priests, the Religious, the Historical and Theological Consultors, the
Postulators, the Lay Officials and the Medical Experts with their
families and all the collaborators.
The special circumstance
that sees you gathered round the Successor of Peter is the celebration
of the 40th anniversary of the institution of the Congregation for the
Causes of Saints, which has given a more organic and modern form to the
action of discernment which the Church, from her origins, has exercised
in order to recognize the holiness of so many of her children.
The interventions of my
Predecessors, especially Sixtus V, Urban VIII and Benedict XVI prepared
for the creation of your Dicastery which was set up in 1969 by the
Servant of God Paul VI, thanks to whom a collection of experiences,
scientific contributions and procedural norms were worked out in an
intelligent and balanced synthesis, which resulted in the erection of a
I am well aware of the
activity that this Congregation has developed with competence over the
past 40 years at the service of the edification of the People of God,
making a significant contribution to the work of evangelization.
Indeed, when the Church
venerates a Saint, she proclaims the efficacy of the Gospel and
discovers joyfully that Christ's presence in the world, believed in and
adored with faith, is capable of transforming the life of human beings
and producing fruits of salvation for all humanity.
In addition, every
beatification and canonization is for Christians a strong encouragement
to live the sequela of Christ with intensity and enthusiasm,
walking towards the fullness of Christian existence and the perfection
of charity (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 40).
In the light of these
fruits it is possible to understand the importance of the role carried
out by the Dicastery in accompanying the individual stages of an event
of such rare depth and beauty and faithfully documenting the
manifestation of that sensus fidelium which is an important
factor in the recognition of holiness.
The Saints are a sign of
that radical newness which the Son of God
with his Incarnation, death and Resurrection
grafted on to human nature. As outstanding witnesses of faith, they are
not representatives of the past but rather constitute the present and
future of the Church and of society. They have fully realized that
caritas in veritate which is the supreme value of Christian life;
they are like the facets of a prism which, in various nuances, reflect
the one light who is Christ.
The life of these
extraordinary figures of believers who belong to all the regions of the
earth have two significant constants that I would like to underline.
First of all, their
relationship with the Lord, even when it takes traditional paths, is
never weary and repetitive but is always expressed in authentic, lively
and original ways and flows from an intense and involving dialogue with
the Lord, which also enhances and enriches the exterior forms.
In addition, the continuous
search for evangelical perfection, the rejection of mediocrity and the
aspiration to belong totally to Christ stands out in the lives of these
brothers and sisters. "You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am
holy" (Lev 19:2) is the exhortation quoted in the Book of Leviticus
which God addresses to Moses. It makes us realize that holiness means
constantly striving for a high standard of Christian living, a demanding
achievement, a ceaseless quest for communion with God which makes the
committed believer, with the greatest possible generosity, "correspond"
to the plan of love that the Father has for him or her and for the whole
The main stages in the
recognition of holiness by the Church, that is, beatification and
canonization, are linked to each other by a bond of great coherence. To
them should be added, as an indispensable preparatory phase, the
declaration of a Servant of God's heroic virtues or martyrdom, and the
ascertainment of some extraordinary gift, the miracle, which the Lord
grants through the intercession of his faithful Servant.
What great pedagogical
wisdom is manifest in this itinerary!
At first, the People of God
are invited to look to those brethren who, after a careful preliminary
discernment, are held up as models of Christian life; the faithful are
then urged to address to them a cult of veneration and invocation
restricted to within the context of local Churches or religious orders;
finally, they are called to rejoice with the entire community of
believers in the certainty that thanks to the solemn Pontifical
proclamation, one of its sons or daughters has attained God's glory, in
which he or she shares in Christ's perennial intercessions for the
brothers and sisters (cf. Heb 7:25).
In this journey the Church
welcomes with joy and wonder the miracles that God in his infinite
kindness freely bestows upon her in order to strengthen the preaching of
the Gospel (cf. Mk 16:2o). He likewise welcomes the testimony of martyrs
as the clearest and most intense form of configuration to Christ.
manifestation of the holiness of believers corresponds with the style
God has chosen in revealing himself to men and women, and, at the same
time, it is part of the process with which the People of God grows in
faith and in the knowledge of the Truth.
The gradual approach to the
"fullness of light" emerges uniquely in the passage from beatification
to canonization. In this process, in fact, events of great religious and
cultural vitality take place. Liturgical invocation, popular devotion,
the imitation of virtues, historical and theological study and attention
to the "signs from on high" are all interwoven and enrich one another.
On this occasion, Jesus'
promise to his disciples of all times is fulfilled: "When the Spirit of
truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth" (cf. Jn 16:13).
Indeed, the witness of Saints sheds light on ever new aspects of the
Gospel and makes them known.
As has been clearly
emphasized by the words of the Most Excellent Prefect, a spiritual and
pastoral richness becomes visible in the process of the recognition of
holiness which involves the whole Christian community. Holiness, namely
the transfiguration of people and human realities into an image of the
Risen Christ, represents the ultimate goal of the plan of divine
salvation, as the Apostle Paul recalls: "For this is the will of God,
your sanctification" (1 Thes 4:3).
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
the Solemnity of Christmas, for which we are preparing, causes to shine
out in its full light the dignity of each human being, called to become
a son or daughter of God. In the experience of the Saints, this dignity
is manifested in the concreteness of historical circumstances, in
personal temperaments, in free and responsible choices and in
Comforted by such a large
number of witnesses, let us too, therefore, hasten our steps toward the
Lord who comes, raising the splendid invocation with which the hymn of
the Te Deum ends: Aeterna fac sum sanctis tuis in gloria
numerari; Let them [Thy servants] be numbered with Thy Saints
in everlasting glory.
With these wishes I gladly
express to each one my fervent good wishes for the approaching Christmas
celebrations and impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all with affection.