Pope announces new beatification category

Pope Francis sent out an Apostolic Letter on Tuesday creating a new beatification category for a Servant of God to be declared Blessed.

This category is distinct from martyrdom through “oblatio vitae, or “the free offering of their life” for love of God and neighbour.

The letter’s title, Maiorem hac dilectionem, comes from Our Lord’s words in St. John’s gospel: “Greater love than this no one has, that they lay down their life for their friends”.

Francis explains in the letter: “It is certain that the heroic offering of life, suggested and supported by charity, expresses a true, full and exemplary imitation of Christ.

“It therefore deserves the admiration that the community of the faithful usually reserves to those who have voluntarily accepted the martyrdom of blood or have exercised in a heroic degree the Christian virtue.”

He  also outlines the five differences between the new category’s definition and the one defining martyrs.

  • “The free and voluntary offering of one’s life, and heroic acceptance … of a certain and soon-to-come death;
  • “A nexus – i.e. close relation – between the offering of life and the premature death of the one who offers it;
  • “The exercise, at least in ordinary degree, of the Christian virtues before the subject’s offering of his or her life and, afterward, perseverance in those virtues unto death;
  • “The existence of fama sanctitatis – i.e. the reputation for holiness – on the part of the subject, and of signs [confirming these], at least after death;
  • “The necessity, for beatification, of a miracle, one that occurred after the death of the Servant of God, and by said Servant’s intercession.”

Besides these criteria, the diocesan inquest into the Cause of the Servant of God must answer the following question:

“Does the case consist of [an] heroic offering of his/her life up to death for the sake of supernatural love of God (propter caritatem) and also of the Christian virtues, at least in the ordinary degree, on the occasion and to the effect for which [the subject’s offering of his/her life] was made?”

The new category was approved by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints’ support.

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