VATICAN CITY, DEC. 20, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI authorized the decrees that recognize the heroic virtue of Popes John Paul II and Pius XII, which pushes them both one step closer to canonization.
The German Pontiff approved a total of 21 decrees Saturday, five of which are for miracles attributed to those who are beatified, and are now qualified for canonization.
Five decrees are for miracles attributed to those who are venerable, and are now qualified for beatification. One decree testifies to martyrdom, and another is a decree of the heroic virtue of a Blessed.
The nine remaining decrees, including those of the two Pontiffs, testify to the heroic virtue of Servants of God. The nine are now given the title Venerable. The candidates need a miracle attributed to their intercession to qualify for beatification.
Pius XII, born Eugenio Pacelli, was born in Rome in 1876, and served as Pope from 1939 until he died in 1958 at Castel Gandolfo.
The Holy Father steered the Church through the stormy years of the Second World War. He has been criticized for remaining silent in face of the Jewish Holocaust, although many historians note that he served an important role in helping to save the lives of many Jews.
John Paul II, born Karol Wojtyla, was born in 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. He was elected Pope in October 1978, and he served until he died on April 2, 2005. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims filled St. Peter’s Square during his last days, and for his funeral.
The historians of the 20th century attribute the fall of Communism in great part to the Polish Pope, and Church historians note his decisive efforts to faithfully apply the Second Vatican Council.
Australia’s 1st saint
Benedict XVI approved a decree attesting to a miracle attributed to Blessed Mary MacKillop, who will become Australia’s first saint.
A miracle decree was also approved for Blessed André Bessette, the Holy Cross brother who founded St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, Canada.
Another decree attested to the martyrdom “in odium fidei” of Father Jerzy Popieluszko, who was the chaplain of Poland’s Solidarity union. The decree paves the way for Father Popieluszko’s beatification.
The Communist regime regarded him as a fanatic, an example of militant clericalism. In 1984, at the age of 37, he was kidnapped and killed by secret service agents, who beat him and threw him into the icy waters of the Vistula River.
The cause of canonization of the English nun Mary Ward (1585-1645) was also advanced. A decree was approved that attested to the heroic virtue of the founder of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also known as the Loreto Sisters.
In an audience granted to Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, and the dicastery’s superiors, officials and collaborators, on the occasion of its 40th anniversary, Benedict XVI reflected on the process of canonization.
“The principal stages of recognition of sanctity by the Church, namely, beatification and canonization, are united by a great bond of consistency,” he said. “To them must added, as an indispensible phase, the declaration about heroic virtue or of martyrdom of a Servant of God and the verification of some extraordinary gift, the miracle, that the Lord gives through the intercession of his faithful servant.”
“What pedagogical wisdom is manifested in such an itinerary,” the Pope continued. “In a first step, the people of God are invited to look to these brothers and sisters who, after a first accurate discernment, are proposed as models of Christian life; then they are exhorted to develop a cult of veneration and invocation circumscribed by the ambit of the local Churches and the religious orders.”
Finally, the Pontiff added, the faithful are called “to exult with the whole community of believers with the certainty that, thanks to the solemn pontifical proclamation, a son or daughter has reached the glory of God, where they participate in the perennial intercession of Christ on behalf of their brothers.”
In this journey, Benedict XVI declared, “the Church welcomes with joy and stupor the miracles that God, in his infinite goodness, gratuitously gives her, to confirm the evangelical preaching. She welcomes, moreover, the witness of the martyrs as the most limpid and intense form of configuration to Christ.”
The Pontiff noted that the Church undertakes these processes because “in the itinerary of recognition of sanctity, there emerges a spiritual and pastoral wealth that involves the whole Christian community.”
He defined sanctity as the “transfiguration of persons and human realities into the image of the risen Christ,” and added that it “represents the ultimate purpose of the plan of divine salvation.”