November 27, 2021

Canonization is the official declaration of the holiness of a deceased person by a Catholic or Orthodox denomination. By issuing this declaration, it is proclaimed that that person is in heaven and in addition, compared to the simple beatification, it is allowed to be venerated as a saint in the universal church, while with the beatification process it is allowed to be venerated in particular churches (for example , before he was canonized, St. John Paul II could be venerated in the Diocese of Rome, as he was its Bishop, and in the Polish Dioceses, because he was born in Poland, as well as Bishop and Cardinal of Krakow). It is a custom in use in the Catholic Church, including the Eastern Rite Churches, and the Orthodox Church. The Anglican Church does not use canonization (the only exception in its entire history is the canonization of Charles I of England). The other Protestant churches, on the other hand, reject the very concept of a canonization pronounced by any ecclesial authority: according to these confessions, the fate of people is known only by God, and the word holy is used in reference to the believer who "only by grace "received the gift of faith and salvation, not to a person who would already be in heaven. In the Catholic Church, canonization takes place at the end of a special procedure, which generally lasts many years, called the canonization process (or canonical process). Among other things, in recent decades, it is required that miracles attributed to the intercession of the person who is the subject of the trial be recognized. The final decision on canonization is in any case reserved to the Pope, who formally sanctions the positive conclusion of the canonical process through a pontifical act.

Historical evolution

If the veneration, more or less marked, of particularly incisive deceased in the history of Christianity arose very early, as evidenced by inscriptions and sources of various kinds, it is only in the second millennium of the life of the Church that a real process of canonization is born. However, given the enormous historical differences that distinguish the millennial history of the Church, it is customary to distinguish six great periods as regards the evolution of the canonization process, five historical plus the current one.

1st-5th century

In the first five centuries of the life of Christian communities, there is no proper talk of saints, but more of martyrs: the veneration of the dead focuses above all on those people who, in order not to deny the Lord and his revelatory message, preferred to sacrifice their own life as a testimony of faith. Obviously there were no formal issues to be fulfilled to venerate a martyr: martyrdom was a fact of public knowledge, confirmed by the competent Roman authorities who then carried out the death penalty. In this period the martyrologists were born, that is catalogs and collections where the faithful were inserted middle name, day of death and burial place, probably to honor them at the sepulcher on the day of their death. A radical change occurs in the period of the end of the persecutions, first with the Constantinian peace (313) then with the edict of Thessalonica. This socio-political situation leads to add to the cult of martyrs, that of confessors, or faithful who had suffered severe violence during the period of persecution but managed to escape death, or people who had conformed to Christ for their earthly life. , with out-of-the-ordinary penances, an ascetic life and similar life choices. It should be noted that the confessors in life must have suffered suffering equal to a non-bloody martyrdom, so as to be venerated like martyrs. Both martyrs and confessors are venerated with a spontaneous collective motion, without initiatives or approvals of an ecclesiastical nature.

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