In the Holy See Press Office this morning, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins C.M.F., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presented the Instruction "Sanctorum Mater" for conducting diocesan or eparchial enquiries in the causes of saints.
Cardinal Saraiva was accompanied by Archbishop Michele Di Ruberto and Msgr. Marcello Bartolucci, respectively secretary and under-secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
In his remarks, the cardinal affirmed that the aim of the document "is to contribute to ensuring that current norms for the diocesan inquiry of a cause of beatification and canonisation are applied with ever greater care".
The Instruction is divided into six sections, said Cardinal Saraiva, going on to explain: "The first draws attention to the need for a true reputation of holiness before beginning a process, and explains the duties and roles of the petitioner, the postulator and the competent bishop. The second part describes the preliminary phase of the cause which extends as far as the 'Nihil Obstat' of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The third section concerns the instruction of the cause. The fourth part concentrates on the gathering of documentary proof and the fifth on the gathering of proof from witnesses. Finally, the sixth section of the document outlines the procedures for the closing of the inquiry".
The cardinal then went on to consider the reasons for the publication of the document, pointing out that 25 years have passed since the promulgation by John Paul II of the Apostolic Constitution 'Divinus Perfectionis Magister', and of the 'Normae servandae' by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Since then, he said, "in some dioceses, certain provisions of the law have not always been understood and, consequently, not been put into practice with the necessary meticulousness, the which has sometimes made it necessary for the congregation to supply clarifications or to ask diocesan curias to correct errors".
Furthermore, he added, "dioceses do not always have access to specialised individuals with practical experience of the various procedures involved in a cause of canonisation". For this reason, "it is evident that a practical document, such as this Instruction, was useful, indeed necessary".
"When the current legislation on causes of saints came into force", said the cardinal outlining another reason for the publication of the present document, "an unfounded idea became widespread that the traditional methodology ... had been substituted by some kind of historical-critical investigation". And he identified the reason for this confusion in "the fact that the term 'inquisitio' used in Latin (the only official text) to designate the procedure of the diocesan phase of a cause of canonisation was translated in Italian as 'inchiesta' (inquiry)". This Instruction, then, highlights "the importance of procedure" in causes of beatification and canonisation, "and accurately highlights the norms that must be observed".
Turning to the last reason for which the document was published, Cardinal Saraiva noted how, "in the move from the earlier legislation to that in force today, it was unclear to some people that a serious and rigorous verification of the fame of sanctity or martyrdom, undertaken in dioceses, is a prior requirement of absolute importance. Hence, a procedure must not be begin without irrefutable proof that the Servant of God ... is held to be a saint or martyr by a considerable number of faithful, who invoke him or her in their prayers and attribute graces and favours to his or her intercession".
Thus far during the pontificate of Benedict XVI, there have been 20 beatification ceremonies during which 563 Servants of God were beatified (36 confessors and 527 martyrs), including 48 diocesan priests, 485 male and female religious, and 30 lay people, for a total of 509 men and 54 women.
The prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has presided at 31 ceremonies, 18 in Italy and 13 in other countries (Mexico, Portugal, Brazil, Spain, France, Poland and Austria).
The canonisation ceremonies celebrated thus far during the pontificate of Benedict XVI number four (three in Rome and one in Brazil), during which 14 people were canonised (two bishops, four priests, five male religious and three female religious).
The current total of saints and blesseds of this pontificate is 577.