04/27/2006, 00.00
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Historical truth and concrete proof needed in causes of saints

Certainty is called for about facts regarding those for whom the process would be started: concrete renown of their holiness, existence of hatred of the martyrs' faith, and the "physicality" of miracles.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In canonization causes, the historical truth about those for whom the process would be started must be sought, as well as concrete renown of their holiness, the reality of hatred of the martyrs' faith, and the "physicality" of miracles. These were some of the indications laid down by Benedict XVI for the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, in a message sent to the Prefect of the Dicastery, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, and to participants of the congregation's plenary session.

The causes, wrote the Pope, "must be taught and studied with considered care, seeking the historical truth diligently, through proof of witnesses and documents". The bishops "will evaluate above all if candidates for the honours of the altar really enjoy solid and widespread renown for their holiness and for their miracles or martyrdom. It's clear that one cannot open a beatification and canonization cause if there is no proven fame of holiness, even if one is faced with people who distinguished themselves by their evangelical consistency and particular church and social services."

As for miracles, "attributed to the intercession of candidate for the honours of the altar: beyond being assured that the Servant of God lives in heaven in communion with God, miracles are a divine confirmation of the judgment expressed by the church authorities about his virtuous life. I hope the Plenary will be able to look deeper into this argument in the light of the tradition of the Church, of today's theology and of the most credible acquisitions from science. The merging of the competence of scientists and theologians should not been forgotten in the examination of asserted miraculous events, even if the final word rests with theology, which alone is able to give an interpretation of faith to the miracle in question. For this, in the procedure of the Causes of Saints, one goes from a scientific evaluation of the Medical Consultation or technical architects to the theological examination by the Consultors and then by the Cardinals and Bishops. Another thing to be kept clearly present is uninterrupted Church practice establishes the need of a physical miracle; a moral miracle does not suffice."

In this time, that has seen a return to martyrdom, Benedict XVI said "yesterday's martyrs, as well as those of our time, give their life (effusion sanguinis) freely and knowingly, in a supreme act of charity, to bear witness to their faith to Christ, the gospel and the Church. If the motive that prompts one to martyrdom has remained unchanged, having Christ as its source and model, the cultural contexts of martyrdom have changed as have the "ex parte persecutoris" strategies, which now do not seek so much to show their aversion to the Christian faith or a behaviour linked to Christian virtues, but act for different reasons, for example, of a political or social nature. It is certainly necessary find irrefutable proof about the willingness to martyrdom, like the flowing of blood and the acceptance on the victim's part. But it is equally necessary that the "odium Fidei" of the persecutor surfaces, directly or indirectly, in a morally certain manner. If this element is missing, this will not be martyrdom according to the perennial theological and juridical doctrine of the church."

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