A Glimpse Behind the Canonization Process

Interview With Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins

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MADRID, Spain, SEPT. 18, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, inaugurated the 2nd Day of Studies of the Causes of Saints, organized by the Archdiocese of Madrid.

Some 200 European specialists attended the three-day meeting, being held this week in El Escorial, Spain. The theme of the Day of Studies is «The Miracle in the Processes of Canonization.»

Q: Has the cause of Mother Teresa of Calcutta been the fastest in recent times?

Cardinal Saraiva: Yes, for several reasons. The current canonical normative allows for preference to be given to those regions where there is no saint or blessed. Although Mother Teresa was not a native of India, she lived there for a long time, and can be considered to be of that country.

Moreover, the members of the congregations founded by Mother Teresa have worked well as a team, and have prepared the 80 volumes of documentation in very short time.

Q: In any case, are we looking at an extraordinary woman?

Cardinal Saraiva: She is, perhaps, the most outstanding figure of contemporary hagiography. She causes very great fascination not only in the Church but also among nonbelievers. She is universally considered a saint.

Q: How many causes are currently in the congregation?

Cardinal Saraiva: Some 2,200 have already completed the diocesan process and are in Rome.

Q: Some people think that too many saints are being canonized.

Cardinal Saraiva: The Church of today needs models and examples. Moreover, our world has no values and society is in need of ideals for man. Sanctity is the proclamation of human and Christian excellence.

In fact, sanctity is no more than the fullness of man. We say of Jesus Christ that he is the perfect man because he is holy.

Q: But, what does the Church obtain with a canonization?

Cardinal Saraiva: The principal fruit for the Church of any beatification or canonization is the glory that is given to God and, in addition, the great quantity of «moral miracles» that accompany it.

Every canonization or beatification is accompanied by a wave of grace which impels to conversion [and] faithfulness, and which elicits the desire for holiness in other people. They produce extraordinary spiritual fruit.

Q: In these study days, there have been discussion on miracles. Why does the Church require that sign to proclaim someone blessed or saint?

Cardinal Saraiva: Miracles have always been considered as a seal with which God guarantees the holiness of a person. Moreover, it is a necessary requirement if one considers the fragility of human proofs.

The historical investigation of the life of a person, no matter how well done, is always superficial: It cannot analyze all the moments of life of a servant of God or his profound convictions. A miracle confirms what we intuit in a person’s life.

Q: Are the majority of miracles the cure of illnesses?

Cardinal Saraiva: Yes, and this shows how Christ’s redemptive work reaches not only the soul but also persons’ bodies. This is why in a miracle the new heavens and the new earth are in some way anticipated.

Q: Do you think that miracles can be understood by our world, seemingly so skeptical?

Cardinal Saraiva: Contemporary man seeks the supernatural. This is why miracles and holiness cause great fascination. Even the most critical people have to recognize the extraordinary fact.

Q: Is the Church exacting in recognizing a miracle?

Cardinal Saraiva: In our Vatican congregation, miracles are studied with great seriousness. Before the Pope approves a miracle, it will have been analyzed by a very rigorous commission of doctors or specialized scientists, of theologians, and of cardinals and bishops.

Q: A medical or scientific report is necessary to recognize a miracle. Must those who prepare it be Catholics?

Cardinal Saraiva: No. Many times they are agnostics or of other religions. The case of St. Faustina Kowalska was entrusted to a Jew of the United States; in other cases they are agnostics. In such cases all we need is for them to tell us that the cure has no natural explanation.

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