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April 25th, 2014
11:41 AM ET

How the Catholic Church makes saints

By John L. Allen, Jr. and Daniel Burke

(CNN) - On Sunday, for the first time in history, the Catholic Church will canonize two popes on the same day.

Pope Francis will preside over a special ceremony that is expected to draw upwards of a million pilgrims, who will gather in St. Peter's Square to witness Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII enter the celestial community of Catholic saints.

Here's a bit about the Catholic Church's canonization process.

What is a saint, and how many are there?

Catholics believe a saint is someone who lived a holy life and who’s already in heaven. Saints are considered role models for people still on Earth, and are capable of interceding with God on someone’s behalf when a request for help is made in prayer.

The actual number of saints is impossible to calculate. One well-known work called "Lives of the Saints" lists 2,565 Catholic saints, but that doesn’t count thousands of others celebrated in local regions all over the world. The Catholic Church has a feast, All Saints’ Day, on November 1 to honor the countless saints who aren’t formally canonized.

So how does one become a saint?

In one sense it’s a democratic process, beginning with a grassroots conviction that a given person lived a holy life. From there, things unfold in three stages. First, Church officials make a study of the person’s life. In John Paul’s case, a four-volume study stretching over more than 2,000 pages was produced, including testimony from more than 100 witnesses.

Next, one miracle after the candidate’s death is required for beatification - and another for canonization. Usually the miracles are healings, which must be instantaneous, permanent, and complete, in addition to scientifically inexplicable. Catholics see the miracle as God’s seal of approval, a way of verifying that the saint really is in heaven.

As pope, John Paul II made the sainthood process faster and simpler – but it’s still not cheap. The biggest expenses are usually the ceremonies for beatification and canonization. When St. Josemaría Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, was canonized in 2002, Opus Dei estimated that it had spent roughly $1 million on the process from beginning to end, stretching over three decades.

Was that process strictly followed for Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII?

In a word, no.

John Paul’s beatification is the quickest in modern times, made possible because Pope Benedict XVI waived the normal five-year waiting period after death to get someone’s beatification rolling. Benedict was responding to crowds who chanted “Santo Subito!” (Sainthood Now!) at John Paul’s funeral Mass and to a petition signed by the cardinals who elected Benedict.

In one way, the pace of John Paul’s cause is a result of his own policies. He sped up saint-making in 1983, a move meant to lift up contemporary role models of holiness. Since then, at least 20 candidates have been beatified within 30 years of their death. For the record, John Paul’s is not the most “fast-tracked” sainthood of all time. That distinction belongs to St. Anthony of Padua, who died in June 1231 and was canonized less than a year later.

John XXIII, known to many Catholics as "Good Pope John," had a relatively short papacy - from 1958 to 1963 - but his influence on the church was enormous.

He convened the Second Vatican Council during the 1960s, which brought the Roman Catholic Church into the modern world, and the modern world into the Roman Catholic Church.

As a result of the council, modern music and local languages - including English - replaced Gregorian chants and Latin prayers in many churches. Lay Catholics were encouraged to take leadership roles in the church, and the church's relationships with the Jewish community and with Protestants improved dramatically after liturgical and doctrinal changes.

Beyond that, Pope John XXIII was known as a holy - and very funny - man. When a reporter once asked how many people work at the Vatican, he answered, "About half."

John has been credited with one miracle, the healing of an Italian nun in 1966, but Pope Francis waived the requirement for a second miracle - as is the papal prerogative.

Still, some sticklers say Francis should have waited for the second miracle to canonize John XXIII.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Leaders • Miracles • Pope Benedict XVI • Pope Francis • Pope John Paul II • Vatican

soundoff (342 Responses)
  1. mayhem4u

    St. Giuseppe patron saint of handgunners!!! Giuseppe, a monk, is known for defending an Italian village from a gang of armed marauders with his brace of pistols!!!

    May 18, 2014 at 2:19 pm |
  2. idiotusmaximus

    How the Catholic Church makes saints.................How and why...............?????

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    May 10, 2014 at 10:14 am |
  3. beaustreaux

    GO SAINTS!!

    April 30, 2014 at 5:52 pm |
  4. Peaceadvocate2014

    Sainthood is a tradition i dont quite understand. Anybody could be a saint both valid or invalid. How can we authenticate a miracle? Perfection? I dont think we can. Only God could.

    I do acknowledge more what the saint represent in acts based on the teachings of God and not as much as the saints miracles.

    April 30, 2014 at 11:20 am |
    • igaftr

      If only you actually had the "teaching of god". All you really have is the teaching of men, claiming it came from god, but still no evidence of any god, so your assertion that you are going from the teaching of god, is baseless belief.
      You are going from the works of men, who falsely claim to speak for god.

      April 30, 2014 at 11:45 am |
  5. kermit4jc

    So the punch line is that if a slave dies at the time of a beating her owner is punished. If the slave clings to life for a day before dying then the master is blameless.-> IM guessing that jb thinks that CSI and the FBI existed at the time this was written.....to beat someone with a ROD to the point that death occurs immediately shows murderous intent.....if the person clings to life a few days....one cannot prove murderous intent.....sorry jb...CSI and FBI did not exist back in Moses' day...they had to go by with what they had......

    April 29, 2014 at 4:09 pm |
    • observer

      Of course, CSI and the FBI would NEVER advocate that no vengeance be taken. Fortunately, our laws aren't based on what the Bible says.

      April 29, 2014 at 4:11 pm |
      • kermit4jc

        right.....because CSIand FBI have means to SHOW murderous intent.....unlike back then...try and connect the dots silly boy..and youre right..our laws are not based on that anymore cause we NOW have means to prove murderous intent........

        April 29, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
        • observer

          kermit4jc,

          Our laws aren't based on the Bible because we are intelligent enough to realize that slavery and discriminations are bad.

          April 29, 2014 at 4:17 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          very silly response...of course the way they helped people in the welfare system was nOT the best...as WE have today...your argfument ignores that this was a welfare system put in effect..unfortunately ourt welfare system reallyisnt any better as too many people abuse it and suck the money out of everyone else's pockets

          April 29, 2014 at 4:20 pm |
        • gulliblenomore

          Kermit....talk about silly responses! You don't beat welfare recipients that you captured as spoils of war from other countries! They were slaves, period!

          April 29, 2014 at 4:23 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          OF course youdont beat them! I didn't say youcould silly boy! stopputting words in mymouth...neither did this law in the Bible..it isa CASE law..in statting this what happens if yo do this

          April 29, 2014 at 4:25 pm |
        • gulliblenomore

          Kermit....silly boy? What are you...12? The bible is pretty clear about every so-called sin. But it is just not stated very clearly that owning other humans was bad. It was however, quite succinct on how to handle them. You just can't refute that fact about your book. ..but, we all know...at least the intelligent among us do.

          April 29, 2014 at 4:30 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          what intelligent among you? yes..at one point helping others to pay off debt was ok...but then it DOES get to where God says no more to it...as I said..by LOVING others, one wold nOT want to enslave them...and I DID admit that this welfare system was nOT the best...except for at that time period since they do not have same kind of systems we do today (remember ALSO this was a brand new society starting out) got to start out with basics....

          April 29, 2014 at 4:38 pm |
        • gulliblenomore

          Kermit....did you miss the part where I mentioned it was not a welfare system? They used slaves that they captured from conquered nations! That was not welfare.

          April 29, 2014 at 4:51 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          the Jews would have used slaves in that way sure..but that was NOT prescribed by the Bible..as prescribed by the BIble..it WAS a welfare system...

          April 29, 2014 at 4:53 pm |
        • gulliblenomore

          Kermit....you do not know that at all. Your bible is pretty explicit on how I can sell my daughter into slavery, but only to a bordering country.

          April 29, 2014 at 4:55 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          I DO know it..it is called READIBNG the bIble...before the part that You posted it states that a man who is in debt can sell himself." (am not able to remember the passage location at this moment) and selling the daughter is part of that...you forget...they were nOT a nuclear family unit! MULTPLE generations lived under one roof...EVERYONE did their share of the work...ever lived on a farm/ranch?????? Even the kids had chores in helping with family business...

          April 29, 2014 at 4:59 pm |
        • gulliblenomore

          Kermit....you are a fool. I don't know for sure there is no god, simply because I can't prove a negative and can't prove that he does not exist. You loser Christians that think all you need to do is read a book (a 2000 year old book put together by myriads of people) and you KNOW what the truth is. I would fall out of my chair if just one of you losers would admit, as I (and most atheists by the way) that you DON'T KNOW for sure. I highly suspect there is no god, because there certainly is no proof whatsoever, but I don't know for absolute sure.

          April 29, 2014 at 8:24 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          I NEVER said I believe cause I read the Book..you need to read the posts in context.....youre wayout of line with that comment cause it had nothing to do with the topic

          April 30, 2014 at 1:52 am |
        • gulliblenomore

          Kermit....I'm not out of line at all. This is a blog, remember? Believe what you want, but you justify your beliefs by turning to the bible. Every one of the Christian fanatics on this site wield bible verses like some sort of sword, as if a line from an Iron Age catalog would ever sway the intelligent people on this site.

          April 30, 2014 at 8:09 am |
        • observer

          kermit4jc,

          Speaking of REALLY SILLY responses, I am talking about laws IN GENERAL and you want to go off on a tangent.

          Try again.

          April 29, 2014 at 4:23 pm |
    • gulliblenomore

      Kermit....why did they even have slaves then? They should have been told it was a sin to own other human beings? That is ridiculous speculation on your part.

      April 29, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Lying to defend your imaginary friend again I see. Geez, kermi...you're one ignorant dolt! Please get an education and stop pretending like you made it out of grade 5.

      April 29, 2014 at 5:24 pm |
  6. jesusandtherese

    Thank God for Saints Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. Thank you CNN for the article on the Canonization Process for Saints. Just for clarification, God makes saints, while the Catholic Church approves miracles performed by God through these saints as a sign that these individuals are in Heaven.

    April 28, 2014 at 7:25 pm |
    • fintronics

      God is imaginary.......... pure mythology... nothing more.

      April 29, 2014 at 11:55 am |
      • jesusandtherese

        How do you know that God is imaginary/pure mythology? Do you have scientific proof that God is imaginary/pure mythology?

        May 2, 2014 at 12:46 am |
  7. gramio6

    As a cradle Catholic, I am sickened by both John XXIII and JPII being canonized, though of course, ONLY God is the One who actually knows what is in these men's hearts! While pontiff's these men presided over pedophiles. These men turned a blind eye to the brutal abuse of children and women by their own hierarchy! These two are no more saints than rapists are!

    April 28, 2014 at 5:40 pm |
  8. kermit4jc

    The Bible considers ALL Christians to be saints...not just a select few...Peter called all the followers saints in letter to the churches in Asia minor......Paul refers to all Christians as well to be saints.....not because of what we do...but because of who we are.....we are set aside by God ...thru Jesus death and resurrection...those of us who have acceptd this are saints...

    April 28, 2014 at 4:36 pm |
  9. Salero21

    The Lord Jesus called his followers sheep for a reason. All others were called goats, dogs, swine and wolves.

    April 27, 2014 at 9:54 pm |
    • observer

      Yep. Sheep, never wise owls.

      April 27, 2014 at 10:21 pm |
    • sam stone

      yep, they do what they are told and in the end are sheared and slaughtered

      April 28, 2014 at 5:46 am |
    • fintronics

      Yup, jeebus the bigot..

      April 29, 2014 at 7:37 am |
  10. Salero21

    Pro 14:1 The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands.

    April 27, 2014 at 9:49 pm |
  11. Salero21

    It could be funny if it wasn't a phony, how atheists flock like dogs, goats, swine and wolves in defense of the RCC. It should be proof once again that atheists and idolaters have many things in common.

    April 27, 2014 at 9:35 pm |
    • readerpan

      Did you major in nonsense?

      April 28, 2014 at 12:09 am |
    • fintronics

      Saltshaker making more "I am a moron" statements.

      April 29, 2014 at 7:38 am |
  12. Salero21

    Every day in the Belief Blog atheists DEMONStrate their extreme hypocrisy, compulsive, congenital, pathetic and pathological lying. They are what they are, nothing is going to change that.

    April 27, 2014 at 9:32 pm |
    • gulliblenomore

      S21....proof would change our minds immediately. Got any, you f-ucking hypocrite? I'm done here....you are worthless to spend any additional time on.

      April 27, 2014 at 9:38 pm |
      • Salero21

        You're a Demonstration of what I've been saying for almost a year now in the Belief Blog. Your hypocrisy and lying is complemented by your inexcusable base vulga.rities.

        April 27, 2014 at 9:42 pm |
        • gulliblenomore

          Salero....thanks! I'm happy to be a demonstration against the likes of what you preach. I would be willing to bet that even people that support your position believe you to be a flaming azzhole. You really need to learn to support your position with a little more intelligence, or everybody will realize you are nothing but a clown,

          April 28, 2014 at 8:12 am |
    • readerpan

      Lying? Could you give an example?

      April 28, 2014 at 12:10 am |
    • gramio6

      You can not make such a statement without giving example of "lies".

      April 28, 2014 at 5:41 pm |
  13. Salero21

    The RCC IS NOT a church in the sense, shape, form and example of the Scriptures. It is a Politico-religious Organization with Financial, social and Political Agendas in the world.

    Everyone and everybody who has Believed in Christ Jesus the Son of God and has been baptized into his burial and resurrection is called a Saint in the NT.

    April 27, 2014 at 9:29 pm |
    • fintronics

      And Harry Potter has a magic wand... says so right there in the book!

      April 29, 2014 at 11:57 am |
  14. Salero21

    WHAAAT!!! More Evidence on top of more Evidence of the Absolute, Complete and Total Stup..... er... NONSENSE of atheism/evolution/Idolatry.

    April 27, 2014 at 9:17 pm |
  15. goss4jc1

    Atheist are such a small minority in the world but the first to come out blasting believers. I know where they are coming from and it's a place of darkness and void of wisdom. They have the audacity to mock their creator, the Lord God who gives them life. What a place to be in. I have labored much to help those that do now know him and I will continue to do so even though some of them act quite foolishly by mocking Him and will one day realize just how low that behavior is.

    I could not be more thankful for God revealing Himself to me and giving us His Word. I will cherish Him all my life and I will share His wonders and His Word with my son. I am not Catholic and I do not believe in the Apocrypha because it is not scripture at all, but I implore all men to seek out Jesus. You do not want to miss out on His salvation. There is nothing that matters more.

    April 27, 2014 at 7:53 pm |
    • observer

      goss4jc1

      "I know where they are coming from and it's a place of darkness and void of wisdom."

      Does that wisdom in include support for slavery, discriminations and beating children with sticks for discipline like the Bible says?

      April 27, 2014 at 7:57 pm |
    • gulliblenomore

      goss...atheists are growing in popularity, mostly because you would have to be a complete idiot to want to believe in a worthless creator such as the one you believe in (I don't even know which 'god' you are referring to, but I think I am pretty safe in saying whichever one you worship is worthless). I'd be happy to believe if you could produce one shred of verifiable evidence that he/she/it even exists. Since you don't, and I know you don't (I hope you don't mind if I just take your word for it), then I will just wait around until he reveals himself to me. By the way, if he is omnipotent, he should have no trouble finding me.

      April 27, 2014 at 8:17 pm |
      • Salero21

        You're a Prime example of the Absolute, Complete and Total Stupor of atheism. Man oh man that was Totally Stup.. of you to say such things.

        April 27, 2014 at 9:21 pm |
        • gulliblenomore

          Azzhole21.....I usually don't respond to you because you are such a d*ckwad, but I'll make an exception this time, if for no other reason than to point out the hypocrisy of your so-called faith. Doesn't your religion teach you to be a bit less of a jackazz and not insulting to people? Fortunately, I don't believe any of that cr-ap, so I can say, without impunity, that you are a complete jerk. And, I finally figured out the meaning of the 21 behind your name.....it is obviously your IQ level.

          April 27, 2014 at 9:30 pm |
        • Salero21

          I didn't insult you, that's a big fat lie that demonstrate once again the Absolute, Complete and Total Stupor that atheism is. I was simply making a description of the facts and evidence clearly in display by your absurd opinion.

          April 27, 2014 at 9:39 pm |
        • readerpan

          You must be a troll because no true christian would say the things you do.

          April 28, 2014 at 12:14 am |
        • fintronics

          He's a fighter in gods army of stupid heads.

          April 30, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
    • gulliblenomore

      that should read....don't take your word for it.

      April 27, 2014 at 8:18 pm |
      • Salero21

        JAJAJA... oops... pardon me... I meant to say HAHAHA. Man oh man you sure are another Prime example of the Absolute, Complete and Total Stupor of atheism.

        April 27, 2014 at 9:24 pm |
        • Salero21

          Here, here; what have we here? This a Belief Blog and still this rabid wolf atheist is telling me in the Belief Blog that I ought to shut-up. Really, really!! Is this the most ridiculous yet to be said by such as these. Some people have some gall!

          April 27, 2014 at 9:46 pm |
        • gulliblenomore

          Salero...thanks again! An admonishment from somebody as lame as you just puts my standing on this blog a little higher! You are a clown with nothing relative to say. And, you can't read. In my last post, I basically said produce the proof or shut up. That means....don't just spout BS.,.produce your evidence

          April 28, 2014 at 8:17 am |
        • readerpan

          When you have to start replying to yourself, you should get the hint.

          April 28, 2014 at 12:16 am |
        • fintronics

          Salero-o-hole..... thank you for your posts. I for one appreciate how you represent believers on this blog..

          April 29, 2014 at 7:41 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Brainwashing your child is not a good thing. Your story sounds like that of many who are reliving the hallucinations from their LSD trips-come back to reality and join us in the 21st century.

      April 28, 2014 at 6:36 am |
  16. Corbin

    The good news is that you can go directly to Jesus in prayer and don't need saints to intercede on your behalf.

    April 27, 2014 at 6:13 pm |
    • gulliblenomore

      The bad news is that since god doesn't really exist, any chance that your prayer would be answered would be strictly coincidental and have absolutely nothing to do with reality.

      April 27, 2014 at 6:18 pm |
      • readerpan

        Prayer is a message to god that you don't think he's capable of managing his creation.

        April 28, 2014 at 12:17 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Prayer doesn't work...just ask the children who have died due to their parents praying instead of getting off their lazy neglectful butts and doing the right thing.
      Two hands working accomplish more than a thousand clasped in prayer...get off your knees, stop being lazy and do something.

      April 27, 2014 at 6:44 pm |
    • sam stone

      the good news is that you don't have to believe in all that heaven and hell foolishness

      the bad news is that you are likely too indoctrinated to believe the good news

      April 27, 2014 at 7:11 pm |
    • goss4jc1

      There is only one mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus. They use the Apocrypha to backup this practice, Maccabees specifically I believe. This is not even scripture on any level. This is one of many non Biblical practices they embrace but still call themselves Christian. Catholics need to wake up. Trust the Lord and His Word. Don't be deceived into believing another Gospel.

      April 27, 2014 at 7:36 pm |
      • James XCIX

        goss4jc1 – "There is only one mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus"

        What does that mean? A mediator is a go-between. Isn't Jesus supposed to be one of three parts of God? Why would he be between humans and another part of God?

        April 27, 2014 at 8:31 pm |
      • sam stone

        You need a mediator to communicate with god?

        Is that like talking to Silvio Dante in place of Tony Soprano?

        Does that give god plausible deniability for his being such a pr1ck?

        April 28, 2014 at 5:50 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Yes, of course he does...god is too busy monitoring your bedroom to be concerned with silly requests from it's ilk.

          April 28, 2014 at 6:34 am |
  17. nhreader

    Every time I need a good laugh all I have to do is go to CNN.com and read people talking about a God and saints. Hilarity at it's best!

    April 27, 2014 at 3:53 pm |
    • sam stone

      it is amusing. particularly the folks that get into the minutae of their comic book, telling other believers that they are wrong

      April 27, 2014 at 5:07 pm |
  18. beaustreaux

    Fav Saint? Easily Drew Breeze. GO SAINTS!!!

    April 27, 2014 at 3:08 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.