Canonization Process Culminates For Popes John Paul II, John XXIII, Church's Newest Saints

Patricia Didelot

How does a person become a Saint in the Catholic Church? Two such cases -- John Paul II and John XXII -- will complete the canonization process on Sunday, when Pope Francis I, declares them the newest Saints.

The process of canonization cannot start until five-years after a person's death and in general it takes many more years to confirm miracles attributed to such person, a critical part of becoming a Saint. The waiting period ensures that the candidate has an impeccable reputation.

In the case of John Paul II -- the longest reigning Pope in modern times -- the calls for canonization and Sainthood started immediately after his death in 2005.

The five-year waiting period is not set in stone, however, and was waived by Pope John XXIII for Mother Teresa of Calcutta as well as by Pope Benedict XVI, John Paul II's predecessor.

Following the waiting period, the canonization process continues when the person being considered for Sainthood is named a Servant of God. At this stage, the candidate is named after his given name or his chosen one (Servant of God Karol Wojtyła or Servant of God John Paul II).

The Informative Process in canonization is where the Church gathers information in the form of written or oral testimony regarding the person's virtues. This phase can take several years and ends with the judgment of a diocesan tribunal and in the end, the Bishop's decision.

At this point nothing has been proven, but all the documentation is kept in an Acta (Acts) and relayed to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

Pope John XXIII to be canonized

A Relator takes charge of the investigation, in the next step of the canonization process. This person works with a theological Commission determined by the Congregation and together they ensure that a Positio, which condenses the life and virtues of the candidate, is properly prepared.

After the Positio is completed the Commission votes to approve or not approve the candidate and is followed by a vote from the cardinal, archbishop, and bishop members of the Congregation who also vote. This vote determines whether the canonization process moves forward or ends and if the vote is positive, it is sent to the Pope, who has the final word.

Once the Pope approves of the canonization process moving forward, the candidate is called Venerable (Venerable Servant of God Paul XXIII).

A lengthy process of proving one and later a second miracle attributed to the candidate, in this case John Paul II and John XXII, ensues and once all documentation has been reviewed by different commissions and approved by the Holy Father the individual is Beatified and the name is changed again to Blessed (Blessed John Paul II).

This stage is known as Beatification and once the second miracle is proven, the Pope issues a Decree of a Miracle, which ensures canonization.

On Sunday, Pope Francis will complete the canonization process by naming Popes John XXIII (1958-1963) and John Paul II (1978-2005) Saints of the Catholic Church. Both are considered two of the most beloved Pontiffs of modern times.

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