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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. 1. As Catholics, we are encouraged to pray to Jesus through the Saints. How does the Church determine who is a Saint and who is not a Saint?

A. 1. When the Catholic Church refers to a Saint, it is a reference to a person who has passed away, who has lived an exemplary life, who is believed to be living in Heaven in the eternal presence of God and who has been cannonized.

"Canonization is an infallible declaration by the pope that a person, who died as a martyr and/or practiced Christian virtue to a heroic degree, is now in heaven and is worthy of honor and imitation by all the faithful. Such a declaration is preceded by the process of beatification and another detailed investigation concerning the person's reputation for holiness, his writings, and (except in the case of martyrs) miracles ascribed to his intercession after his death. Miracles are not required for martyrs. The pope can dispense from some of the formalities ordinarily required in canonization procedures (equivalent canonization), as Pope John XXIII did in the canonization of St. Gregory Barbarigo on May 26, 1960. A saint is worthy of honor in liturgical worship throughout the universal Church."

"From its earliest years the Church has venerated saints. Public official honor always required the approval of the bishop of the place. Martyrs were the first to be honored. St. Martin of Tours, who died in 397, was the first non-martyr venerated as a saint. The first official canonization by a pope for the universal Church was that of St. Ulrich by John XV in 993. Alexander III reserved the process of canonization to the Holy See in 1171. In 1588 Sixtus V established the Sacred Congregation of Rites for the principal purpose of handling causes for beatification and canonization: this function is the work of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The present procedure is outlined in canons 1999-2141 of the Code of Canon Law and in a 1969 enactment by Paul VI."

"The essential portion of a canonization decree states:"

"For the honor of the holy and undivided Trinity: for the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the increase of Christian life; with the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and with our own authority; after mature deliberation and with the divine assistance, often implored; with the counsel of many of our brothers."

"We decree and define that (name) is a saint and we inscribe him (her) in the Catalogue of Saints, stating that he (she) shall be venerated in the universal Church with pious devotion."

"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

"The official listing of saints and blessed is contained in the Roman Martyrology and related decrees issued after its last publication. Butler's unofficial Lives of the Saints (1956) contains 2,565 entries."

"The Church regards all persons in heaven as saints, not just those who have been officially canonized.

[Source: "Catholic Word Book" by the catholic Information Service, Knights of Columbus, P. O. Box 1971, New Haven, Conn. 06521, USA.]

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