Saturday, December 19, 2009

Signed, Sealed... Sainted

As expected, this morning the Pope approved 21 decrees advancing causes for beatification and canonization... and, suffice it to say, the slate is full of notable names.

Among others, B16 declared:
  • the martyrdom "in odium fidei" of Fr (now Blessed-to-be) Jerzy Popieluzsko, the chaplain to Poland's Solidarity movement who was killed by the Communist regime's secret police in 1984;
  • and, most prominently of all, the heroic virtues of not one, but two pontiffs: Karol Wojtyla, better known as John Paul II... and Eugenio Pacelli, Pius XII, whose cause has sparked a significant amount of protest among Jewish leaders, and dueling pressures on the Vatican, amid charges that the wartime Pope failed to do enough to avert the Holocaust. (While John Paul's heroic virtue was reportedly approved by a unanimous vote of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints last month, Pius' decree has been pending before Benedict since it, too, was endorsed without opposition by the dicastery's 30-odd cardinals in May 2007.) Both now become "Venerable," and their causes permitted to present a first miracle in order to progress to beatification -- which, in the case of John Paul, could come as soon as next year.
  • And lastly, with the Pope slated to visit the UK next fall, likewise advanced was the cause of now-Venerable Mary Ward (1585-1645), the English foundress of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Inspired to start an Ignatian community for women in the spirit of the Jesuits -- one that, shockingly for its time, would be free from the obligations of the enclosure and a "specific" habit -- Ward's declaration, like MacKillop's, recognizes the sanctity of a life that endured ecclesiastical hardball; once jailed for two months by the Roman Inquisition (the historical antecedent of today's CDF), her community was suppressed in 1630, and only re-established sixty years after her death.
As far as timetables go, it bears noting that B16 has limited the canonization Masses to formally elevate groups of new saints to two each year: one in the spring, during the Easter Season, then again in the fall, usually in the first half of October. The dates for the respective canonizations will be fixed in consistories, the first of which should come in February.

Along these same lines, the pontiff has restored the traditional venue of the rites of beatification to the local church where the candidate(s) lived, with the ceremony usually performed there by a papal legate.

Papa Ratzinger is expected to break from said form, however, on the aforementioned (but still unconfirmed) trip to Britain, where he will reportedly lead the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, the famed convert and apologist who was cleared for the penultimate step to sainthood in early July.

PHOTO: "The Communion of Saints"/John Nava, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels