The Process of Canonization

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A saint is a person who exhibits a life of remarkable degree of holiness, initially recognized as such by the church, more so by canonization (free dictionary). According to Christianity, a saint is any believer who is deeply engrossed in Christ and whom Christ live in both on earth or heaven (Brooke, 2006).

Canonization is the process by which the Christian church declares that a person who has died a saint. The process of collecting information and documenting the life of a holy and righteous person begins after five years of his death. During this period of five years, the person image and reputation is investigated to ensure that he/she led a life of sanctity and holiness among the believers. However, a person does not necessarily have to wait for five years to be declared a saint as some of this time may be waivered by the supreme pontiff but only on special occasion. After this period of five years is over or before if some of the years have been waivered, the diocese Bishop in which the person perished petition for the initialization of beautification and canonization (Vauchez, 2005). If there is no opposition from the doctrine congregation of faith to the canonization of the person, the process of canonization begins. The method of canonization has the following steps;

Diocesan Tribunal

Precisely, at this stage, the statement put forth by the diocese, the bishop, as well as the religious institute spearhead the basis, gathers information and witness about the life, and good deeds of the man of God. The data collected is examined. This process is also called the documentary phase and may take a long time to finish. It concludes with the diocese tribunal passing judgment and the bishops’ final decision that the good deeds of the man of God have been portrayed or not. If yes, communication to the audience for the cause of saint is made (Hames, 2000).

Congregation for the causes of saints

Precisely, the findings from the stage of informative go to the relator appointed by the college congregation of relators whose responsibility is to oversee the purpose through the remaining process. The relator ensures the preparation of the position, which provides a summary of the life and good deed of the man of God. After its completion the theological commission votes for or against the cause. After that, the purpose, if voted for, is passed to the archbishop, bishop, the cardinal and the congregation members who also votes. Their vote is a determinant of whether the cause will live or die (Goodrich, 2004). If their poll is positive, the heroic virtues decree approval passes to the Father who is Holy, and renders the last judgment whether it moves to the next step.


After the servant of God Heroic Virtues have been examined, and recognized by the pope, they are known as Venerable.

Diocese: The proposed first miracle

In this phase, the diocese looks for indication of the power of intercessory of the man of God venerable that warrants his/her reunion with God after death. The Scientific commission is put forward to determine that there exists no natural or rational account for the miracle in question. The miracles that are usually considered for the process of being a saint are medical. They must relate to treatment and healing. Both the scientific and theological commission must rule that the cure did not have a natural explanation and was strictly a miracle (Goodrich, 2017). The commission must also determine that the miracle was without any mediation of an outside party that is the servant of God only did it.

Congregation: First miracle proposed for the cause

Here the congregation of the cause of saints establishes and votes for or against the scientific and theological commission results from the diocese stage. With the acceptance vote of the divine commission, the recommendation passes to the cardinal and episcopal members’ general meeting, whose acceptance vote is passed on to the supreme pontiff. It is also important to note that in circumstances of martyrdom, the miracle needed for canonization is not put into much consideration as the church sees as a real martyr (Sexton, 2018).

Supreme pontiff: the decree of the miracle

In this phase, the Holy Father approves the proclamation of a wonder of the man of God after which he/she is ready to be canonized.


Supreme pontiff: Beautification

Beautification is done under the watch of the supreme pontiff, and after that, the Holy Father declares the servant of God as Blessed. After that, the servant of God receives both public and private worship from the local and regional level.

Diocese: The proposed 2nd

miracle for the cause

Precisely, after beatification, both the scientific and theological commission finds and analyses the miracle in question that cannot be explained naturally, approves the miracle and passes it to the next stage which congregation. Like earlier mentioned above the congregation affirmatively votes for the miracle then moves it to the Holy Father. The whole father acknowledges and approves the miracle, and now canonization is possible (Marner, 2000).


Supreme pontiff: canonization

By canonization and the act protected from mistakes and errors by the Holy Spirit the supreme pontiff raises the servant of God church’ universal veneration and is announced by the pope that he is with God. After that he or she can be included to the church calendar, the country or the world to be celebrated (Liddy, 2008).

St Cuthbert was born in 635AD in North Umbria to a well-off English family. He grew up in a foster home and was very fond of his adoptive mother. At 17 Cuthbert witnessed a light descends to earth and back in heaven. He firmly believed that a human soul accompanied it. Cuthbert later went to Melrose where he lived as a monk for 13 years. While at Lindisfarne he was well known for his commitment and devotion to the word of God and his ability and power for spiritual healing. At 50 years he retired but did not last for long as he was called back to made Lindisfarne Bishop. Cuthbert is one of the essential English saints. He rose to become a saint after eleven years after his burial. In 698 his body was exhumed, and they were amazed when they found out that his body had not decayed a bit. This miracle proved his holiness and worthiness which propagated his ascension to sanctity (St John Paul, 2014).

Cuthbert performed a lot of wonders some of which includes: restoring the senses of Hilderman’ wife, healing paralysis of Baldhelm servant’ healing sister to Ethelwald with the holy oil of her pain, curing illness, saving a son suffering a plague, healing a monk of diarrhea. He also prophesized that Aldfrith will ascend to power taking over his half-brother, foresaw the death of Ecgfrith and Herbert. 

St. John Paul II is initially known as Karol Jozef. He was born in May 1920 in Poland and succumbed to his death April 2005 in Vatican City. He served as a bishop and head of Catholic Church for 25 years from 1978 to 2005. He was beatified in 2011 and canonized in 2014. His influence was not only limited to the church but also against physical, political aggression from the westernized countries. St John Paul II like other saints also performed numerous miracles, and the most prominent one is healing Mrs Mora a woman who was partially paralyzed, and despite moving from hospital to hospital, the doctors could not cure her sickness. This miracle paved the way for St. John Paul II to become a saint (St John Paul, 2014). Unlike other Saints, St. John Paul canonization did not take five years as all this time was waivered entirely by Pope Francis.

Comparison between old and new ways of becoming a saint

The old and new methods of becoming a saint differ on some occasions. First of all, in the old ways, the procedure of becoming a saint is lengthy and very strict. The integrity of the process is highly cared for and safeguarded (Sexton, 2018). The congregation must examine and pass an affirmative vote on the recommendation of the diocese tribunal. The diocese and congregation thoroughly scrutinize the servant of God miracle petition before they can move it to the Holy Father for approval. All this are conspicuously lacking in the modern way to become a saint.

Secondly, the new system has moved the responsibility for gathering testimony into the single hand of the local bishop. The new system has also abolished the whole legal system built around the beatification and canonization process and replaced it with the person’s biography as the most vital determining factor. Even in the modern era, the period taken for a person to declared sanctity has dramatically reduced. Like in the case of St. John Paul, it only took him 11 years to be declared a saint while St. Cuthbert had to wait a lot longer than that to receive that honor (Sexton, 2018). The modern era has also disregarded the need for a second miracle for a person to be canonized arguing that, and the saints’ role is to reach out to God on behalf of those who are praying to him. They state that an individuals’ extraordinary life in Christ warrants him/her of sanctity. It is also important to note that in old era miracles had to be examined by both the scientific commission to ensure that there is no natural scientific explanation of their occurrence and the theological commission had to approve that the miracle was strictly miraculous. Also, the need for the second miracle has been abolished in the modern era unlike in the old age where the first and the second miracle were strictly required.

Considering the two eras; the old and new era ways to becoming a saint, I would say that in the ancient period the process of becoming is rigorous and needs to be followed to the latter. In the new era, the process is short a lot of steps that existed in the old period have been scrapped off the modern era, and it is very much more comfortable and more straightforward to be a saint in this time compared to the past (Goodrich, 2017). According to me, Cuthbert would still make to be a saint in the modern era very quickly because he full fills the entire requirement needed to be sanctified in the contemporary period. However St. John Paul II despite being a saint in this time he would find it difficult to be a saint in the old time because the procedure then was very strict because, before canonization, there was the consideration for the first and the second miracle and the scrutiny that each step has.  


Brooke, R.B., 2006. The image of St Francis: responses to sainthood in the thirteenth century. Cambridge University Press.

Vauchez, A., 2005. Sainthood in the later Middle Ages. Cambridge University Press.

Hames, H.J., 2000. The art of conversion: Christianity and Kabbalah in the thirteenth century (Vol. 26). Brill.

Goodrich, M., 2004. Lives and miracles of the saints: studies in medieval Latin hagiography (Vol. 798). Variorum Publishing.

Goodrich, M.E., 2017. Miracles and wonders: the development of the concept of miracle, 1150-1350. Routledge.

Sexton, J.P., 2018. Unearthing the People of the Holy Man: A Week at St Cuthbert’s Lindisfarne. Bridgewater Review, 37(1), pp.4-10.

Marner, D., 2000. St. Cuthbert: His life and cult in medieval Durham. University of Toronto Press.

Liddy, C.D., 2008. The Bishopric of Durham in the Late Middle Ages: Lordship, Community and the Cult of St Cuthbert. Boydell & Brewer Ltd.

St John Paul, I.I., 2014. Catechesi tradendae. Sophia Institute Press.

November 24, 2023

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