Pope Francis opened the possibility of a new way for the processes of Beatification and Canonization: “the offering of life,” which is added to the martyrdom and heroic virtues. Here is our complete translation of the Apostolic Letter in the form of the Motu Proprio “maiorem hac dilectionem,” published on this matter on July 11, 2017.
Motu Proprio “Maiorem hac dilectionem”
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
These Christians, who following more closely he steps and teachings of the Lord Jesus, offered voluntarily and freely their life for others and persevered in this intention up to death, are worthy of particular consideration and honour.
It is certain that the heroic offering of their life, suggested and sustained by charity, expresses a veritable, full and exemplary imitation of Christ and it is why they merit the admiration that the community of the faithful usually reserves to those who voluntarily accepted the martyrdom of blood or exercised the Christian virtues to a heroic level.
With the support and favourable advice expressed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints that, during the Plenary Session of September 27, 2016, studied carefully if these Christians merited Beatification, I have established that the following norms be observed:
The offering of life is a new individual case of the procedure of Beatification and Canonization, distinct from the individual case on martyrdom and on the heroism of virtues.
In order to be valid and effective for the Beatification of a Servant of God, the offering of life must respond to the following criteria:
- a) Free and voluntary offering of life and heroic acceptance propter caritatem of a certain death and at short term;
- b) Link between the offering of life and premature death;
- c) Exercise, at least in an ordinary manner, of the Christian virtues before the offering of life and, then, up to death’
- d) Existence of a reputation for holiness and signs, at least after death;
- e) Necessity of a miracle for Beatification, occurring after the death of the Servant of God and through his intercession.
The holding of the corresponding diocesan or eparchial investigation and the Positio are regulated by the Apostolic Constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister of January 25, 1983, in Acta Apostolicae Sedis , Vol. LXXV (1983, 349-355) and by the Normae Servandae in Inquisitionibus ab Episcopis Facendis in Causis Sanctorum of February 7 of the same year, in Acta Apostolicae Sedis Vol. LXXV (1983-396-403), under reservation of what follows.
The Positio on the offering of life must respond to the doubt: An constet de heroica oblatione vitae usque ad mortem propter caritatem neenon de virtutibus christianis, saltem in gradu ordinario, in casu et ad effectum de quo agitur.
The following articles of the quoted Apostolic Constitution are modified thus:
“To the diocesan Bishops, to the Eparchs and to those assimilated to them by law, in the framework of their jurisdiction, be it of office, be it at the request of the faithful themselves or of legitimate Associations and their representatives, is the right to investigate the life, the virtues, the offering of life or the martyrdom and the reputation for holiness, of offering of life or of martyrdom, on the alleged miracles and, eventually, on the old devotion of the Servant of gGd for whom Canonization is requested.”
Art. 2, 5:
The investigation on the alleged miracles must be made separately to that on the virtues, on the offering of life and on martyrdom.”
“Study the causes entrusted to them with outside collaborators and prepare the Positions on the virtues, on the offering of life or on martyrdom.”
Art. 13, 2:
If the Congress judges that the cause was instructed according to the norms of law, it will establish to entrust it to one of the Rapporteurs; the Rapporteur, in turn, aided by an outside collaborator, will do the Positio on the virtues, on the offering of life and on the martyrdom, according to the rules of the hagiographic critique.
The following articles of Normae Servandae in Inquisitionibus ab Episcopis Facendis in Causis Sanctorum mentioned have been modified thus:
“The cause can be recent or old: it is said recent if the martyrdom, the virtues or the offering of life of the Servant of God can be proved through the oral depositions of eye witnesses; it is said old when the proofs relative to martyrdom or to virtues can only be drawn from written sources.”
Art. 10, 1:
“In recent or old causes, a biography of a certain historical value on the Servant of God , if it exists or, if it does not exist, a precise chronological report on the life and activities of the Servant of God, on the virtues, or on the offering of life or on the martyrdom, on the reputation of holiness and of miracles, without omitting what seems contrary or less favourable to the cause itself.”
Art. 10, 3:
“In recent causes only, a list of persons that can contribute to explore the truth on the virtues or on the offering of life or on the martyrdom of the Servant of God, as well as his reputation of holiness and of miracles, or opposed to them.”
Art. 15, a:
“Once the report has been received, the Bishop must send to the Promoter of justice or to another expert everything that was acquired up to this moment, so that he can prepare useful questions to carry out the investigation and bring to light the truth on the life, the virtues, the offering of life or the martyrdom, the reputation for holiness, of the offering of life or of the martyrdom of the Servant of God.”
Art 15, b:
“In old causes, the questions must only concern the reputation for holiness, the offering of life or the martyrdom still present and, if it is the case, the devotion rendered to the Servant of God in more recent times.”
“To prove martyrdom, the exercise of virtues or the offering of life and the reputation of miracles of a Servant of God who belonged to an Institute of Consecrated Life, the witnesses present must be, to a great extent, outsiders, unless that is impossible, by reason of the particular life of the Servant of God.
“The investigation on the miracles must be instructed separately from the investigation on the virtues and on the offering of life or on the martyrdom and must unfold according to the following norms.”
“Prohibited in churches are the celebrations of any type or the panegyrics on the Servants of God whose holiness of life is still subject to a legitimate examination. But also outside the church, it is necessary to abstain from acts that could induce the faithful to consider wrongly that the investigation ,carried out by the Bishop on the life and the virtues, on the martyrdom or on the offering of life of the Servant of God, implies the certitude of the future Canonization of the Servant of God in question.”
I order that all that I have ruled by this Apostolic Letter under the form of a Motu Proprio be observed in all its parts, despite anything to the contrary, even worthy of a particular mention, and I establish that it be promulgated through publication in the daily L’Osservatore Romano,” coming into force the same day of the promulgation and that it then be inserted in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.
Given at Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on July 11, the fifth of our Pontificate.