Pope Francis introduced a new criterion for Beatification, added to the three existing previously: “the offering of life,” where the baptized person accepted a premature death for the service of others. In a Motu Proprio, published on July 11, 2017, the Holy Father sets out the norms of this new way, which calls for the recognition of a miracle to make a Beatification possible.
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It is the introduction of Pope Francis’ Motu Proprio “maiorem hac dilectionem, establishing that Christians who have “voluntarily and freely offered their life for others and persevered to death in this regard,” are “worthy of consideration and honour.” They “merit Beatification.”
This new way, specifies an article published in L’Osservatore Romano for the coming into force of the legislation, makes possible the Beatification “of faithful who, driven by charity, offered their life heroically for their neighbour by freely and voluntarily accepting a certain and premature death with the intention of following Jesus.”
In fact, writes the Pontiff, “the offering of a heroic life, suggested and sustained by charity, expresses a true, full and exemplary imitation of Christ” and, consequently, “merits this admiration” that the community of the faithful reserves to the Blesseds.
A Fourth Way
Up to the present, the norms of the Catholic Church have provided three ways opening to Beatification: martyrdom, the “heroic: practice of human and Christian virtues and the rarest way of “equivalent” causes,” when the Pope confirms an already ancient devotion.
These three ways “do not seem sufficient to interpret all possible cases of holiness,” one reads in the opinion column published by the Vatican newspaper. Therefore, henceforth a fourth is added, which contains elements of martyrdom by “the heroic gift of self” including death and elements of heroic virtues by “a heroic act of charity” inspired by Christ’s example.
However, this way is also differentiated from the two others: as opposed to martyrdom, there is no “persecutor who would like to impose a choice against Christ” and, as opposed to heroic virtues, there is no “expression of a prolonged exercise of virtues.”
The offering of life, continues the text, values “a heroic Christian witness “ of a new order. In this case, the “perfection of charity” is not “the result of a prolonged, willing and joyful repetition of virtuous acts, but a unique heroic act that by its radicalism, its irrevocability and its persistence usque ad mortem expresses fully the Christian option.”
Among the criteria of this way, the Motu Proprio specifies a “short term” death: neither immediate nor distant (which would transform the heroic act into a heroic virtue). The papal document also explains that to access Beatification there must be “a link between the offering of life and a premature death,” the exercise of virtues “at least in an ordinary measure” before the offering, a reputation for sanctity “at least after death” and a miracle due to the intercession of the Servant of God.
Here is a ZENIT translation of the complete text.