Rorate Caeli

Beatification and Canonization of Saints

The Catholic Church canonizes or beatifies only those whose lives have been marked by the exercise of heroic virtue, and only after this has been proved by common repute for sanctity and by conclusive arguments. The chief difference, however, lies in the meaning of the term canonization, the Church seeing in the saints nothing more than friends and servants of God whose holy lives have made them worthy of His special love. She does not pretend to make gods (cf. Eusebius Emisenus, Serm. de S. Rom. M.; Augustine, City of God XXII.10; Cyrill. Alexandr., Contra Jul., lib. VI; Cyprian, De Exhortat. martyr.; Conc. Nic., II, act. 3).

The true origin of canonization and beatification must be sought in the Catholic doctrine of the worship (cultus), invocation, and intercession of the saints. As was taught by St. Augustine (Quaest. in Heptateuch., lib. II, n. 94; Reply to Faustus XX.21), Catholics, while giving to God alone adoration strictly so-called, honour the saints because of the Divine supernatural gifts which have earned them eternal life, and through which they reign with God in the heavenly fatherland as His chosen friends and faithful servants. In other words, Catholics honour God in His saints as the loving distributor of supernatural gifts.

The worship of latria (latreia), or strict adoration, is given to God alone; the worship of dulia (douleia), or honour and humble reverence, is paid the saints; the worship of hyperdulia (hyperdouleia), a higher form of dulia, belongs, on account of her greater excellence, to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Church (Augustine, Reply to Faustus XX.21; cf. City of God XXII.10) erects her altars to God alone, though in honour and memory of the saints and martyrs. There is Scriptural warrant for such worship in the passages where we are bidden to venerate angels (Exodus 23:20 sqq.; Joshua 5:13 sqq.; Daniel 8:15 sqq.; 10:4 sqq.; Luke 2:9 sqq.; Acts 12:7 sqq.; Revelation 5:11 sqq.; 7:1 sqq.; Matthew 18:10; etc.), whom holy men are not unlike, as sharers of the friendship of God. And if St. Paul beseeches the brethren (Romans 15:30; 2 Corinthians 1:11; Colossians 4:3; Ephesians 6:18-19) to help him by their prayers for him to God, we must with even greater reason maintain that we can be helped by the prayers of the saints, and ask their intercession with humility. If we may beseech those who still live on earth, why not those who live in heaven?

Beatification of John Bosco A. D. 1929:

Beatification of Ignatius of Laconi A. D. 1940:

Beatification of Dominic Savio A. D. 1950:

Beatification of Marcellin Champagnat A. D. 1955:

Beatification of Innocent XI A. D. 1956:

Beatification of John Paul II A. D. 2011:


Canonization of John Bosco A. D. 1934:

Canonization of Nicholas of Flüe A. D. 1947:

Canonization of Maria Goretti A. D. 1950:

Canonization of Pope Pius X A. D. 1954:

Canonization of Gregorio Barbarigo A. D. 1960:

Canonization of Vincent Pallotti A. D. 1963:

Canonization of the Uganda Martyrs A. D. 1964:


Beatification (A. D. 1909) and Canonization (A. D. 1920) of Joan of Arc:

Beatification (A. D. 1923) and Canonization (A. D. 1925) of Thérèse of Lisieux:

Beatification (A. D. 1933) and Canonization (A. D. 1940)of Gemma Galgani: