Saintly statistics

Mary MacKillop, Australian Saint

Ever wondered how many saints have been recognised by the Church? Or how many popes have been made saints? And what is the process for sainthood? Here are some saintly stats from the Religion News Service.

- America magazine/Religion News Service

Yesterday was the first-ever double papal canonisation. Here's a quick guide to making saints in the Roman Catholic Church:

There are currently about 10,000 saints on the church's official roster. The process of canonisation is a way that the Catholic Church formally declares that a soul is in heaven and worthy of veneration and emulation by the faithful.

* Of the 266 popes, 83 (including John XXIII and John Paul II) have been made saints; almost all of them were canonised in the first millennium of Christianity.

* Among the last 10 deceased popes, only Leo XIII (1878-1903), Benedict XV (1914-1922), and Pius XI (1922-1939) are not saints or are not being considered for sainthood. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (2005-2013) can't be considered since he's still alive. The seven others are saints or are in the canonisation pipeline.

* The only pope from the Church's first five centuries who was not canonised was Liberius (352­-366), who initially condemned Athanasius, the theologian behind the Nicene Creed that expounds the basics of the Christian faith.

* In the early church, saints were sometimes proclaimed by popular acclamation, much as the crowds of mourners tried to do at the funeral of John Paul II in 2005.

* There is a five-year waiting period before a cause for canonization can begin, although a pope can waive that requirement, as Benedict XVI did for John Paul II.

* In 1234, Pope Gregory IX gave the papacy the final say over whether a dead person who was venerated locally could be officially recognised as a saint by the Church.

* In 1642, Pope Urban VIII issued decrees that centralized control over the canonization process in Rome. The reforms were partially a response to Protestant reformers who had criticized abuses in the process and the trade in relics associated with saints.

* There are three basic steps to formal sainthood: First, a formal inquiry is opened and if a person's 'heroic virtues' are initially confirmed the candidate is called 'venerable.' Beatification, usually by the pope, is the second step and the candidate is called 'blessed.' Canonisation is the third and final step, when a candidate is formally declared a saint.

Read full article: Saintly Stats (America)

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