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Letter to Session of Congregation for Sainthood Causes

5/17/2006 - 6:00 AM PST

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"The Last Word Is Given to Theology"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 17, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of the letter Benedict XVI recently sent to the participants in the plenary session of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes.

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To my Venerable Brother
Cardinal José Saraiva Martins
Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints

On the occasion of the plenary assembly of this Congregation for the Causes of Saints, I would like to address my cordial greetings to you, Your Eminence, which I gladly extend to the cardinals, archbishops and bishops who are taking part in the meeting. I likewise greet the secretary, the undersecretary, the consultors and medical experts, the postulators and all the members of this dicastery.

Together with my greeting, I also express my sentiments of appreciation and gratitude for this congregation's service to the Church in promoting the causes of saints, who "are the true bearers of light within history, for they are men and women of faith, hope and love," as I wrote in the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" (No. 40).

This is why from the outset the Church has held their commemoration and worship in great honor, dedicating down the centuries ever more vigilant attention to the procedures that lead the servants of God to the honors of the altar.

In fact, the causes of saints are "major causes," both because of the nobility of the subject treated and their effect on the life of the People of God. In light of this reality, my Predecessors often intervened with special legislative measures to improve the examination and celebration of their causes. In 1588, Sixtus V willed the Sacred Congregation for Rites to be established for this purpose.

Then how can we forget the provident legislation of Urban VIII, the promulgation of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, the norms of Pius XI for ancient causes, the "motu proprio" "Sanctitas Clarior" and Paul VI's apostolic constitution "Sacra Rituum Congregatio"?

My Predecessor Benedict XIV, rightly considered "the master" of the causes of saints, deserves a grateful mention. More recently, in 1983, beloved John Paul II promulgated the apostolic constitution "Divinus Perfectionis Magister," followed in the same year by the publication of the "Normae Servandae in Inquisitionibus ab Episcopis Faciendis in Causis Sanctorum" [Norms to be Observed in Inquiries made by Bishops in the Causes of Saints].

More than 20 years' experience has prompted this congregation to draft an appropriate "Instruction for the Process of the Diocesan Inquiry in the Causes of Saints."

This document is addressed primarily to diocesan bishops and its preparation constitutes the first item on the agenda of your plenary meeting. Its intention is to facilitate the faithful application of the "Normae Servandae" cited, in order to ensure the seriousness of the investigations carried out in diocesan inquiries into the virtue of servants of God and in cases claiming martyrdom or possible miracles.

The evidence for the causes is collected and studied with supreme care and with a diligent search for the historic truth through testimonies and documentary proof "omnino plenae," for they have no other aim than the glory of God and the spiritual good of the Church and of all who are in search of the Gospel truth and perfection.

The diocesan pastors, deciding "coram Deo" on which causes deserve to be initiated, will first of all evaluate whether the candidates to the honors of the altar truly enjoy a firm and widespread fame of holiness and miracles or martyrdom. This fame, which the Code of Canon Law of 1917 stipulates should be "spontanea, non arte aut diligentia procurata, orta ab honestis et gravibus personis, continua, in dies aucta et vigens in praesenti apud maiorem partem populi" (Canon 2050 §2), is a sign of God who points out to the Church those who deserve to be set on the lamp stand to "give light to all in the house" (cf. Matthew 5:15).

It is clear that it will not be possible to introduce a cause of beatification or canonization if proven holiness does not exist, even if the person concerned was distinguished for conformity with the Gospel and special ecclesial and social merits.

The second theme that your plenary assembly is treating is "the miracle in the causes of saints." It is well known that since ancient times, the process for arriving at canonization passes through the proof of virtues and miracles, attributed to the intercession of the candidate to the honors of the altar.

As well as reassuring us that the servant of God lives in heaven in communion with God, miracles constitute the divine confirmation of the judgment expressed by the ecclesiastical authority on his/her virtuous life. I hope that the plenary meeting will be able to examine this subject in greater depth in ...

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