VATICAN CITY, OCT. 27, 2005 ( Benedict XVI is letting cardinals preside over beatification rites in order to emphasize how radically different those events are from canonizations, says a Vatican official.

Canonization differs from beatification in part because the former involves the Pope's infallible magisterium, explained Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes.

In an interview with the monthly 30 Giorni, and in response to the opposite positions of some theologians, the prefect explained the theological reasons for the changes introduced by the new Pontiff.

This Saturday, at the Holy Father's request, Cardinal Saraiva Martins will preside over the beatifications of eight martyrs of the religious persecution that took place in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. Last Sunday, Benedict XVI proclaimed the first five saints of his pontificate.

The decision to again delegate the beatifications, as was the case before the papacy of Paul VI, is due to the difference in character of this act.

"Although both are pontifical acts -- this must always be remembered -- with beatifications the Pope allows that locally or in specific religious families public devotion be rendered to a Servant of God; while with canonizations the blessed is declared a saint and the devotion becomes obligatory for the whole Church," Cardinal Saraiva Martins affirmed.

Solemn magisterium

He added that "the Church acts with a pronouncement that has the character of a decree, definitive and obligatory for the whole Church, involving the solemn magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, while this does not happen in the case of beatifications."

The cardinal denied rumors that Benedict XVI does not want to proclaim so many saints and blessed as Pope John Paul II.

"Up to now there are no signs in this regard," he said. "Our congregation has some 2,000 causes on its waiting list and 400 reports are already ready -- the so-called positio -- to be examined. Work progresses regularly, as in the last years."

Regarding the cause for John Paul II's process of beatification and canonization, the cardinal explained that "its diocesan phase has already begun and it proceeds as all the others," clarifying that it is not a cause of martyrdom.

"Only those may be considered martyrs who have shed their blood voluntarily, those who were killed 'in odium fidei' -- out of hatred for the faith," the cardinal said.

Some people thought that the blood shed in St. Peter's Square, during the 1981 attempt on John Paul II's life, justified his being a martyr.

Pius XII's cause

Regarding the cause for Pope Pius XII, Cardinal Saraiva Martins pointed out that the report on his virtues -- "the positio super virtutibus" -- has already concluded.

"The judgment is awaited of theologians and cardinals gathered in ordinary congregation. It is hoped that they will be able to intervene in the next year," he said.

Finally, the cardinal revealed that the cause of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, El Salvador, killed while he was celebrating Mass, has not yet surmounted the reservations expressed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the reason why the process is not following its ordinary course in the Congregation for Sainthood Causes.