The Difficulty of Canonizing Popes

National Catholic Register, 9 November 2017

Should popes be canonized? Has something gone wrong if one isn’t?

The latest to join saints-a-marching is Pope John Paul I, who moves a major step toward sainthood with the decree of his heroic virtues approved Wednesday. The decree, granted by Pope Francis, means that the Church, after thorough investigation, judges the candidate worthy of beatification and canonization. The subsequent requirement for a miracle or miracles is considered divine confirmation of the ecclesial judgment.

Candidates for sainthood are styled “Venerable” after the declaration of heroic virtues. Thus Venerable John Paul I joins Venerable Pius XII in awaiting a miracle for beatification.

While the early martyr-popes were quickly venerated as saints, the canonization of popes is not the norm. To the contrary, there were periods where many of them were far from exemplary Christian disciples.

The elevation of Pope Pius X to the altars in the 1950s was something of a novelty, after a gap of several centuries.

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