12 July 2017
Pope approves new path to sainthood: 'the heroic offering of life'
The ruling is likely to apply to missionaries killed, but who may not fall under the classic definition of someone killed due to 'hatred of the faith'
Pope Francis has created a new pathway to sainthood, allowing the Church to canonise those who risk their lives in certain parts of the world knowing they will face death.
The new ruling also effectively opens up a fourth route to sainthood. Up until now the Church canonises martyrs, those living a heroic Christian life of virtue and “exceptional cases” based on an ancient tradition of venerating the sanctity of a person. It is the norm that one miracle in needed for beatification and another for canonisation, although in the case of a martyr a miracle is not needed for beatification.
The pope's ruling effectively gets round one of the traditional tests for martyrdom which requires an individual to be killed in “odium fidei” or hatred of the faith, something heavily debated in the case of Archbishop Oscar Romero.
The cause of the martyred Salvadorean prelate - killed in 1980 while saying Mass - was held up for years by those who questioned whether he was assassinated for religious or political motives.
The Archbishop had been an outspoken critic of El Salavador’s regime during his country’s civil war, and is widely believed to have been killed by forces close to the government. Some people who were hostile to his canonisation argued that his murder was down to politics rather than faith. This argument, however, was eventually overruled and Romero was beatified in May 2015.
In the Pope’s new move, contained in an Apostolic Letter released Motu Proprio (by his own initiative), Francis writes “that the heroic offering of life, suggested and supported by charity, expresses a real, full and exemplary imitation of Christ.”
The letter states that someone is eligible to be beatified, the level below canonisation, if they serve somewhere knowing they will face “certain death” and have a miracle associated with them.
Tuesday's ruling is likely to apply to those missionaries who die while working in dangerous parts of the world, but who may not fall under the classic definition of someone killed due to hatred of the faith.
Take, for example, the Spanish religious sister, 51-year-old Isabel Sola Macas, who was killed after her car was shot at in Port-au-Prince, Haiti last September.
She’d worked tirelessly among the poor as a nurse, helping to build houses and create a centre to build prosthetic limbs for amputees injured in Haiti’s 2010 earthquake. It is suspected her death was caused by armed robbers but by risking her life to work in an unstable country she could be eligible under the new beatification pathway.
Her case would be different from French priest Fr Jacques Hamel, killed by Islamic fundamentalists while saying Mass. In Fr Hamel’s case it is far easier to prove that he was killed in “odium fidei.”
PICTURE: Pope Francis leads a blessing of the candles ceremony in Portugal, May 2017
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